On March 30, 2023, Pope Francis formally “repudiated” the Vatican’s infamous 15th century “Doctrine of Discovery.” The doctrine, officially laid out in three “papal bulls” (Dum Diversas in 1452, Romanus Pontifex in 1455 and Inter Caetera in 1493), provided religious and ostensibly legal justification for the European Christian colonization of Indigenous lands in Africa and the Americas.
On March 31, 2023, Christopher Peters, president of the Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous People, released the following statement in response to the Pope’s announcement.
March 30, 2023
The Vatican’s March 30, 2023 statement is not fooling us. We have seen this time and time again and we are interested in more words that go nowhere, do nothing. The Vatican’s repudiation of the Papal Bulls does not change anything. It offers another highlight to the ongoing menace of Christian domination, perhaps as a photo opportunity just before Easter. However, the action is meaningless to the day-to-day lives of the Indigenous Peoples, communities, nations, and homelands which were torn apart, and are still targeted today by the Doctrine of Discovery.
No apology, no repudiation, not even revoking the Papal Bulls would creates real change in the lived realities and futurity of anyone – not give rest to our Ancestors – not until there is actual changed behavior that is sustain to get the job done. This means that the Pope and the Vatican must direct its full attention to dismantling the 15th century Papal Bulls that have denied Indigenous Peoples out humanity, enslaved our Ancestors, devastated cultures, and holds hostage our lands and futures for over 500+ years, and still to this day. Nothing but full dismantling must be the focus, and achieved to absolute completion, in all its ugliness, tentacles, and in all its mutations at recent past and in this contemporary time. And, yes, it is going to take some real changed behavior, but time is up. We are not interested in a photo opportunity. We demand real change.
A good start would be removing their churches built on top of Indigenous Peoples’ sacred sites since the invasion. We want to see the Vatican take the right stand and finally do the right thing to be in the right relation with Indigenous Peoples, now and going forward. We welcome the Catholic church (and all the other ones too) to roll up their sleeves and take some real and positive action because, brick by brick, these monuments to violence and harm worshipping must come down now to liberate the places and the Peoples held under these oppressions. Dismantling requires halting their missionization of out Peoples and attacks on our cultures around the world. Just stop it – we have our own spiritualities and worldviews and have no need or desire to replace that. Dismantling also means actively undoing systems of Christian white elitism (supremacy) in all its forms wherever it resides. Nothing else will suffice. Time is now.
All Our Relations,
Christopher Peters, President of Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples