The President of Mexico wrote an open letter to Pope Francis asking for an apology for the church’s role in the Spanish conquests against the country 500 years ago.
On the eve of Columbus Day, President Andres Manuel López Obrador wrote a two-page letter posted on Twitter on Saturday.
“The Catholic Church, the Spanish monarchy and the Mexican government must publicly apologize for the insulting atrocities suffered by the indigenous population,” the letter said. “They deserve not only this generous treatment on our part, but a sincere commitment that we will never, ever, disrespect their beliefs, cultures, let alone be condemned or marginalized on economic or racist grounds.”
Lopez Obrador also asked the pope to make a statement in favor of Miguel Hidalgo, the leader of 19th-century Mexico’s independence who was once thought to have been excommunicated for his involvement in the uprising. Researchers later said that Hidalgo appeared to have confessed his sins before being executed and was thus not excommunicated.
In the past, Pope Francis has apologized on behalf of the church and the exploitation of indigenous peoples during a tour of Mexico in 2016.
“In many cases, your people have been misunderstood and excluded from society in a systematic and organized way,” he told a liturgy in front of tens of thousands of people. “Some people think that your values, culture and traditions are lower. Others, intoxicated by power, money and market trends, have stolen your land or polluted it. “
Lopez Obrador asked the Spanish government for an apology in 2019, which Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez rejected.
Lopez Obrador’s letter was given by his wife, Beatrice Gutierrez Mueller, who is traveling to Europe for archeological and historical artifacts that will be on display next year for the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s independence.
The letter was also tweeted the same day that Mexican authorities removed a controversial statue of Christopher Columbus in the country’s capital ahead of planned protests to demolish it.
Mexico City Mayor Claudia Scheinbaum has rejected the idea of removing the statue because of the protests, saying it was for restoration. For some, Columbus Day continues to mark governance based on discrimination against indigenous peoples. A petition circulating on Change.org gathered more than 1,700 signatures to remove it.
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Associated Press contributed.