Pope Francis's recent request for forgiveness for the excesses committed during the evangelization of the American continent has caused a stir within the Spanish political class. Blowing hot and cold at the same time, the Roman pontiff also spoke for the first time, without naming them explicitly, of the atrocities committed against the Cristeros.
“It is necessary to reread the past. ...This retrospective look necessarily includes a process of purification of memory, that is to say the recognition of mistakes made in the past, which were very painful.”
These words come from a letter signed by the Argentine pontiff on September 16, 2021, and addressed to Bishop Rogelio Cabrera Lopez, president of the Conference of Bishops of Mexico (CEM), while Mexico commemorates the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec Empire in the face of European assaults, and celebrates the second centenary of its independence.
In it, Peter's successor apologizes for “personal and collective sins, for all actions and omissions that did not contribute to evangelization.” In 1992, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, John Paul II found there “a favorable occasion to humbly ask forgiveness for the offenses committed.”
Eight years later, during jubilee year 2000, the Polish pope recognized that “Christians have often disowned the gospel and, yielding to the logic of force, have violated the rights of ethnic groups and peoples, despising their cultures and religious traditions.”
Benedict XVI, in 2007, went further, asking “humble forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the Church itself, but for the crimes against the indigenous peoples during what is called the conquest of America.”
By comparison, the current Roman pontiff has been sober. Moreover, the Argentine pontiff in the name of the “purification of memory,” took the opportunity to evoke the atrocities committed by the Mexican government during the Cristeros war (1926-1929).
Without directly naming those responsible, the Pope denounced “the actions which, more recently, have been committed against the Christian religious sentiment of a large part of the Mexican people, thus causing deep suffering (and which) cannot be ignored.”
In fact, Pope Francis's letter responds to a demand made twice - in March 2019 and October 2020 - by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), who went so far as to mention the “most shameful atrocities” committed by the Spanish settlers.
In terms of atrocity, the Aztec people had unequaled experience: during the dedication of the temple of Mexico in 1487, according to the sources, 20,000 to 80,000 victims were sacrificed to the deities of an empire on the verge of its collapse before the Cross.
The pontifical apologies were not to the liking of the Spanish conservatives. On September 28, the spokesman of the Vox party ironically noted that they did not “understand very well that a pope of Argentine nationality could apologize on behalf of others.”
And the deputy strongly affirmed that “Spaniards can be proud of their history and of the exploits accomplished by their country on the American continent.”