|Pope Francis talks to Indian leaders and social workers at the second World Meeting of Popular Movements in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Thursday, July 9, 2015. (AP / Rodrigo Abd)|
SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia -- Pope Francis apologized Thursday for the sins, offences and crimes committed by the Catholic Church against indigenous peoples during the colonial-era conquest of the Americas, delivering a powerful mea culpa on the part of the church in the climactic highlight of his South American pilgrimage.
History's first Latin American pope "humbly" begged forgiveness during an encounter in Bolivia with indigenous groups and other activists and in the presence of Bolivia's first-ever indigenous president, Evo Morales.
Francis noted that Latin American church leaders in the past had acknowledged that "grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God." St. John Paul II, for his part, apologized to the continent's indigenous for the "pain and suffering" caused during the 500 years of the church's presence in the Americas during a 1992 visit to the Dominican Republic.