May 21, 2023

The Interfaith Peace Project continues its ongoing observance of the International Day of Peace, September 21, by sending out a reflection on the twenty-first of every month. We invite you share in this effort by sending any articles or information that you would like to share to:

Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P
[email protected]

Continuing to Observe
The International Day of Peace
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.

On March 30, 2023, the Vatican formally repudiated the “Doctrine of Discovery.” It did so at the request of Indigenous people. This repudiation declares the 15th Century papal proclamations “did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of indigenous people.” While the statement rejects the idea that the “Doctrine of Discovery” was authentic Church teaching, the “Doctrine” is more than responsible for the colonialization, assimilation, and destruction of countless people and their cultures to this day.

The papal decrees were the foundation for the legal construct formulated in the 1823 U.S. Supreme Court decision that granted ownership to land to Europeans because they “discovered” it. As late as 2005, the Supreme Court ruled against the Oneida Indian Nation based on the “Doctrine of Discovery.” 

We must rejoice with all those who petitioned the Vatican and appealed to Pope Francis. The repudiation of this terrible teaching and practice is a significant development in recognizing and restoring the human rights of so many people. At the same time, we must pursue the practical steps of restoration, repair, and reparation. 

The “Doctrine of Discovery” enables the racism, sexism, and hatred of those deemed “lesser” in the name of God. Every person is now responsible for examining their beliefs and convictions, confronting any idea that one race or gender is superior to another. 
We must acknowledge the damage done over the centuries. Our places of worship must become centers of understanding and reconciliation. In our sanctuaries, we must become aware of the horrors of genocide and racism if God is indeed to be loved, honored, and adored. The Prayer for the Dedication of a Church prays: “Here may the victims of oppression find true freedom.” The Book of Exodus proclaims, “You shall not suppress the stranger who lives among you.” The Quran teaches, “Allah made us different so we might know one another.” 
The repudiation of the “Doctrine of Discovery” is an opportunity for us to seek the wisdom of those who have been slaughtered, marginalized, and enslaved. Their cultures, languages, and ways of living must now be discovered and cherished as we strive to be better citizens of the World.
It is time to take the words of Pope Francis seriously, “Never again can the Christian community allow itself to be infected by the idea that one culture is superior to others, or that it is legitimate to employ ways of coercing others.”

Blessings to you, Holy Community, for seeking to know and honor the rich cultures and beautiful people who bless our human family. Gratitude to you for respecting people in all their diversity and dignity. Together we form but one human community.