Pope attacks capitalism as 'dung of the devil' in speech
Pope Francis has launched a blistering attack on the "new colonialism" of austerity, describing unfettered capitalism as "the dung of the devil" and apologising for the Catholic church's role in the conquest of indigenous populations in the Americas.
He delivered a powerful mea culpa on the part of the church in the highlight of his South American pilgrimage, "humbly" begging 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.
The first Latin American pope noted that 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, apologised 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.
But the Pope went further and said he was doing so with "regret".
"I would also say, and here I wish to be quite clear, as was St. John Paul II: I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offences of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America," he said to applause from the crowd.
Then deviating from his prepared script, he added: "I also want for us to remember the thousands and thousands of priests who strongly opposed the logic of the sword with the power of the cross. There was sin, and it was plentiful. But we never apologised, so I now ask for forgiveness. But where there was sin, and there was plenty of sin, there was also an abundant grace increased by the men who defended indigenous peoples."
Quoting a fourth century bishop, he called the unfettered pursuit of money "the dung of the devil", and said poor countries should not be reduced to being providers of raw material and cheap labour for developed countries.
He also called for an end to what he said was the "genocide" of Christians taking place in the Middle East and beyond.
"Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus," he said in Bolivia, part of a three- nation tour to his native South America.
"In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end."
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said that Francis wrote the speech on his own and that the apology for the sins, offenCes and crimes of the church was a "particularly important declaration".
The Pope's apology was met with wild applause from the indigenous and other grass-roots groups gathered for a world summit of popular movements whose fight against injustice and social inequality has been championed by the Pope.
"We accept the apologies. What more can we expect from a man like Pope Francis?" said Adolfo Chavez, a leader of a lowlands indigenous group.