Santa Cruz, Bolivia – Pope Francis apologized Thursday for the sins and “offenses” committed by the Catholic Church against indigenous peoples during the colonial-era conquest of the Americas.
History’s first Latin American pope “humbly” begged forgiveness during an encounter in Bolivia with indigenous groups and other activists and in the presence of Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales.
Francis noted that Latin American church leaders in the past had acknowledged that “grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God.” St. John Paul II, for his part, apologized to the continent’s indigenous for the “pain and suffering” caused during the 500 years of the church’s presence on the continent during a 1992 visit to the Dominican Republic.
The apology was significant given the controversy that has erupted in the United States over Francis’ planned canonization of the 18th century Spanish priest Junipero Serra, who set up missions across California. Native Americans contend Serra brutally converted indigenous people to Christianity and have opposed his canonization.
Two Israelis held captive in Gaza Strip
Jerusalem – Israel on Thursday said that two of its citizens are being held captive in the Gaza Strip, an announcement that brought back bitter memories of the case of an Israeli soldier who was captured and imprisoned for five years by the Hamas militant group.
But circumstances have changed dramatically since Gilad Schalit’s release in a 2011 prisoner swap, and the case announced Thursday could provide an important test of a new fragile detente that has emerged between Israel and Hamas since their devastating war last year. A relatively subdued reaction in Israel reflected the new reality, though Hamas is likely to push for a new round of prisoner releases by Israel before it returns the two men.
Israeli defense officials identified one of the men as Avraham Mengistu, an Israeli of Ethiopian descent in his late 20s.
According to COGAT, the defense body that handles civilian issues with the Palestinians, Mengistu disappeared after he “independently” crossed the border fence and entered Gaza on Sept. 7, two weeks after the end of last year’s war.
COGAT said the second man was a Bedouin Arab citizen from southern Israel. It refused to identify him.
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