VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - In 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued the papal bull Inter caetera, which started the European colonization of the New World. Last Saturday, Steven Newcomb, who leads the Indigenous Law Institute, met with the Holy Father and asked him to revoke the papal bull formally.
"We are also calling on them to formally acknowledge that it was issued and that the system of thought and behavior that was unleashed on the planet," Newcomb said.
The papal bull granted to Castile and Aragon all lands to the "west and south" of a pole-to-pole line 100 leagues west and south of any of the islands of the Azores or the Cape Verde islands.
Inter caetera states:
Among other works well pleasing to the Divine Majesty and cherished of our heart, this assuredly ranks highest, that in our times especially the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself...We...assign to you and your heirs and successors, kings of Castile and Leon...all islands and mainlands found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered towards the west and south, by drawing and establishing a line from...the north...to...the south...the said line to be distant one hundred leagues towards the west and south from any of the islands commonly known as the Azores and Cape Verde…
Several other 15th century papal bulls gave the Church’s blessing for Portugal to ‘invade, conquer, fight, subjugate the Saracens and pagans and other infidels and other enemies of Christ.'
Portugal had been focused on exploring Africa’s west coast, but when Christopher Columbus claimed the West Indies for Spain, Portugal became angry and believed their rights to explore extended across the globe.
Due to this, Pope Alexander IV drew a line midway across the Atlantic Ocean, giving Spain rights to explore the west of the line and Portugal all lands to the east.
In 2010, the Vatican ambassador to the United Nations told the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues that the papal bull Inter caetera is today just a mere "historic remnant with no juridical, moral or doctrinal value."
In July 2015, Pope Francis asked for forgiveness for the "grave sins" on the part of the Church in colonial times.
"I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offense of the Church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America," he said.