PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has written to Pope Francis this week to commend him for rejecting a 15th century doctrine which fuelled colonialism across the globe.
On March 30 the Pope issued a joint statement on behalf of the Catholic Church which formally repudiated the so-called Doctrine of Discovery.
The statement confirmed: “The ‘doctrine of discovery’ is not part of the teaching of the Catholic Church.
“Historical research clearly demonstrates that the papal documents in question, written in a specific historical period and linked to political questions, have never been considered expressions of the Catholic faith.
“At the same time, the Church acknowledges that these papal bulls did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of indigenous peoples.”
The statement adds: “The Church is also aware that the contents of these documents were manipulated for political purposes by competing colonial powers in order to justify immoral acts against indigenous peoples that were carried out, at times, without opposition from ecclesiastical authorities.
“It is only just to recognize these errors, acknowledge the terrible effects of the assimilation policies and the pain experienced by indigenous peoples, and ask for pardon.
“Furthermore, Pope Francis has urged: “Never again can the Christian community allow itself to be infected by the idea that one culture is superior to others, or that it is legitimate to employ ways of coercing others.”
This week President Higgins congratulated the Pope on the move by the Church, stating in his letter “allow me to commend you most warmly on the recent Joint Statement in which on behalf of the Catholic Church you confirm formally the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery”.
He added: “Confirming the renunciation of this 15th century concept will be welcomed by so many given that it has been used as defence of the most outrageous abuses and manipulated for political purposes by competing colonial powers, in order to justify immoral acts against indigenous peoples by European Christian colonialists.
“Such immorality included seizure of Indigenous peoples’ lands in Africa and the Americas.”
The President explained: “Your strong condemnation of such acts of violence, oppression, social injustice and slavery, particularly those committed against indigenous peoples, is another powerful intervention on your behalf, one that promotes universal solidarity and respect of the dignity of every human being.”
The President went on to congratulate the Pope once more before ending his letter, stating: “May I congratulate you once more for this important contribution, demonstrating, as it does, such strong solidarity with indigenous people, and makes, equally strong affirmation for the principles contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as calling for their implementation.”
He then closed his typed letter with an Irish phrase, which he then translated in his own hand, to read: “My congratulations and gratitude on behalf of the people of Ireland.”