Pope Historical Message to US Congress, September 24, 2015

The Pope Wants America to Learn From Its Horrific Treatment of Native Americans

As expected, Pope Francis implored Congress to protect refugees and other migrants in an address at the Capitol on Thursday. But before he did, he took a step to acknowledge the nation’s (and the church’s) often horrific treatment of American Indians.

America, he argued, should demonstrate a sense of compassion it so rarely showed during the colonization of the continent:

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners.

I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected.

For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present.

Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past.

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