Outraged Indian leaders in Brazil said on Monday they were offended by Pope Benedict's "arrogant and disrespectful" comments that the Roman Catholic Church had purified them and they had welcomed the arrival of European priests at the time of the conquest as they were "silently longing" for Christianity.
Millions of tribal Indians are believed to have died as a result of European colonization backed by the Church since Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492, through slaughter, disease or enslavement. Priests blessed conquistadors as they waged war on the indigenous peoples.
Many Indians today struggle for survival, stripped of their traditional ways of life and excluded from society.
"The state used the Church to do the dirty work in colonizing the Indians..." said Dionito Jose de Souza a leader of the Makuxi tribe in northern Roraima state.
"It's arrogant and disrespectful to consider our cultural heritage secondary to theirs," said Jecinaldo Satere Mawe, chief coordinator of the Amazon Indian group Coiab.
"We repudiate the Pope's comments," said SandroTuxa who heads the movement of northeastern tribes. . "To say the cultural decimation of our people represents a purification is offensive, and frankly, frightening."
Even the Catholic Church's own Indian advocacy group in Brazil, known as Cimi, distanced itself from the Pope. "The Pope doesn't understand the reality of the Indians here, his statement was wrong and indefensible." Cimi advisor Father Paulo Suess told Reuters.
From the BBC :-
Indigenous leaders in Brazil have reacted angrily to Pope Benedict's comments that their predecessors had willingly converted to Christianity 500 years ago . The BBC's Emilio San Pedro said the Pope had said the Christianisation of the region had not involved an alienation of the pre-Colombian cultures. The BBC correspondent said Pope Benedict also made no mention of the violent history that followed or the documented decimation of native cultures in favour of the Christian model Conquistadores and other Europeans colonisers.