Protest against 15th century land grabbing doctrine interrupts papal mass in Canada

People hold a banner as Pope Francis presides over a mass at the Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre, one of North America’s oldest and most popular pilgrimage sites, in Sainte-Anne-de -Beaupre, Quebec, Canada on July 28, 2022. The banner reads: ‘Repeal the doctrine’. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

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July 28 (Reuters) – Indigenous activists unfurled a banner calling on Pope Francis to rescind 15th-century papal edicts justifying colonialism at a mass he presided over on Thursday, putting doctrine at the forefront of his tour apology in Canada.

Two Anishinaabe cousins ​​unfurled a large banner protesting the Doctrine of Discovery which effectively gave Europeans moral justification for taking indigenous lands.

They stood near the front row facing the congregation as the pope began mass at a cathedral outside Quebec City. Most people in the church were indigenous.

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Sarain Fox and Chelsea Brunelle held the banner with “RESCIND THE DOCTRINE” written on a white sheet in red and black letters for approximately two and a half minutes.

But it seemed much longer, they told Reuters by telephone.

“We were very nervous,” Brunelle, 21, said. They had painted the banner late the previous night in a last-minute decision to send a protest message, she said.

“A missing piece of reconciliation in this Pope’s visit, his pilgrimage, is action,” she said.

They removed the banner shortly after security guards told them to, Fox said.

It was unclear whether the pope, who was behind the banner, could see what it was saying. Fox and Brunelle said they felt it was important for the banner to face the community and believe he got the message.

The doctrine of discovery was enshrined in 15th-century papal bulls or edicts. Indigenous peoples in Canada have been calling for its cancellation for years.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which spent six years investigating residential schools, listed its repudiation as one of 94 calls to action it issued.

Francis is on a week-long tour of Canada to apologize for the church’s role in the abusive residential school system, which removed Indigenous children from their homes under a program of forced cultural assimilation. Read more

A spokesman for the organizers of the papal visit said the Canadian bishops are asking the pope to address the Doctrine of Discovery.

“Galvanized by the appeals of our indigenous partners and by the remarks of the Holy Father, we are working with the Vatican and those who have studied this question, with the aim of issuing a new declaration of the Church,” said Laryssa Waler in an email. Thursday.

“The Bishops of Canada continue to reject and resist the ideas associated with the Doctrine of Discovery in the strongest possible way.”

During an evening vespers service in the cathedral in Quebec, the pope said that the Christian community should never again “let itself be contaminated by the idea that one culture is superior to others, or that it is legitimate to employ means of coercing others”.

Massimo Faggioli, professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University, said the pope was unlikely to formally rescind the doctrine, but should address it.

“The Church doesn’t operate like that – they don’t issue a document saying, ‘Now we’ve decided that this old doctrine is no longer true,'” he said. “The way the Church does this is to produce new documents with new doctrines that supersede old doctrines. … I believe (the pope) should address this issue, and I believe he will. But not with a formal document.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also “discussed the need to … address the Doctrine of Discovery” during a meeting with the pontiff on Wednesday, his office said.

Fox, 34, said she thought they got their point across.

She hopes her 19-month-old daughter will one day learn about acting ‘as a moment when we took a first step towards becoming the sovereign people we were always meant to be in this country’.

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Reporting by Philip Pullella and Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Mark Porter, Lisa Shumaker and Deepa Babington

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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