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Pope Francis has asked forgiveness from the indigenous peoples of Latin America for the many crimes committed by the Catholic church during the “so-called conquest.”

In an historic speech to the “World Meeting of the Popular Movements” in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, which was attended by many indigenous people, he said:

“I want to tell you, and I want to be very clear: I humbly ask your forgiveness, not only for the offenses committed by the Church herself, but also for the crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.”

The conquest and the theft of their land led to the genocide of millions of indigenous people who were killed by invaders or died of introduced diseases to which they had no resistance.

He acknowledged the depth of suffering by indigenous peoples: “I say this to you with regret: Many grave sins were committed against the native people of America in the name of God.”