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Vatican rejects ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ that justified historial taking of Indigenous lands

The Vatican rescinded the infamous “Doctrine of Discovery” on Thursday, a long-demanded action by Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

The doctrine, known as a papal bull that dates to the 15th century, was used to excuse the oppression of Indigenous people worldwide during European colonization, the Vatican said in a document published in the official Vatican News.

“The document states that the “Doctrine of Discovery” – a theory that served to justify the expropriation by sovereign colonizers of indigenous lands from their rightful owners – “’is not a part of the teaching of the Catholic Church.’” the Vatican said.

It went on to say the rescinding of the doctrine was spurred in part by Canada’s Indigenous peoples’ demand during Pope Francis’ “penitential journey” to Canada eight months ago during which he apologized for the Catholic Church’s role in Indian Residential Schools. Beginning in the mid-1800s, Indigenous children were forced from their homes into the schools where the goal was to crush their culture and replace it with white culture.

But the doctrine adversely affected more than just the colonization of Canada’s natives by England and France.

It in effect allowed the Portuguese and Spanish kingdoms to take land from territories in Africa and South America, too, under the guise of spreading Christianity.

Prior to the Canadian visit, Pope Francis had apologized in 2015 to the native people of Bolivia for colonial conquests.

A tweet Thursday from Vatican News announced the repudiation.

“Two Vatican Dicasteries (councils) issue a joint statement formally repudiating “’those concepts that fail to recognize the inherent human rights of indigenous peoples, including what has become known as the legal and political ‘doctrine of discovery’,” the tweet said.

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