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Statements by Saint John Paul II

Midland, Ontario, September 15, 1984


“There can be no question of adulterating the word of God or of emptying the Cross of its power, but rather of Christ animating the very centre of all culture. Thus, notonly is Christianity relevant to the Indian peoples, but Christ, in the members of his Body, is himself Indian.”


Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, September 18, 1984


“My presence in your midst today is intended to be another expression of the deep interest and solicitude which the Church wishes to show for the native peoples of the New World. In 1537, in a document entitled Pastorale Officium, my predecessor Paul III proclaimed the rights of the native peoples of those times. He affirmed their dignity, defended their freedom, asserted that they could not be enslaved or deprived of their goods or ownership."

Phoenix, Arizona, September 14, 1987


“I encourage you, as native people belonging to the different tribes and nations in the East, South, West and North, to preserve and keep alive your cultures, your languages, the values and customs which have served you well in the past and which provide a solid foundation for the future. Your customs that mark the various stages of life, your love for the extended family, your respect for the dignity and worth of every human being, from the unborn to the aged, and your stewardship and care of the earth: these things benefit not only yourselves but the entire human family. 


Your gifts can also be expressed even more fully in the Christian way of life. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is at home in every people. It enriches, uplifts and purifies every culture. All of us together make up the People of God, the Body of Christ, the Church. We should all be grateful for the growing unity, presence, voice and leadership of Catholic Native Americans in the Church today.” 

Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, September 18, 1984

Today I want to proclaim that freedom which is required for a just and equitable measure of self-determination in your own lives as native peoples. In union with the whole Church I proclaim all your rights - and their corresponding duties. And I also condemn physical, cultural and religious oppression, and all that would in any way deprive you or any group of what rightly belongs to you.


It is clearly the position of the Church that peoples have a right in public life to participate in decisions affecting their lives: "Participation constitutes a right which is to be applied both in the economic and in the social and political fields" (Iustitia in Mundo, 1; cf. Gaudium et Spes, 75).


This is true for everyone. It has particular applications for you as native peoples, in your strivings to take your rightful place among the peoples of the earth, with a just and equitable degree of self-governing. For you a land-base with adequate resources is also necessary for developing a viable economy for present and future generations. You need likewise to be in a position to develop your lands- and your economic potential, and to educate your children and plan your future.

Santo Domingo, October 13, 1992


“How could the Church, which has always been close to indigenous peoples, through her religious, priests and bishops, forget in this fifth centenary the enormous sufferings inflicted on the inhabitants of this continent during the period of the conquest and colonization? It is necessary to acknowledge in all sincerity the abuses committed due to the lack of love on the part of those persons who were unable to see the natives as their brothers, as children of the same Father.”

Vatican City, October 21, 1992


“Through my pilgrimage to the place where evangelization began, a pilgrimage characterized by thanksgiving, we wanted at the same time to make an act of atonement before the infinite holiness of God for everything which during the advance toward the American continent was marred by sin, injustice and violence. Some of the missionaries have left us an impressive witness. One need only recall the names of Montesinos, Las Casas, Cordoba, Juan de Valle, and many others.


After five hundred years we stand before Christ, who is the Lord of all human history, to address those words to the Father that Christ himself taught us: ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive…’ (cf. Mt. 6:12). The Redeemer’s prayer is addressed to the Father and at the same time to all who suffered various injustices.


We do not cease asking these people for ‘forgiveness.’ This request for pardon is primarily addressed to the first inhabitants of the new land, the Indians, and then to those who were brought from Africa as slaves to do heavy labor.


‘Forgive us our trespasses.’ This prayer is also part of evangelization.”

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