I don’t know why this should be surprising from a man who sees nothing strange about having a black man on his official flag. Sort of like a religious lawn jockey. Why should we care about what the current Pope says? Well, one billion people or one-sixth the population of the globe. Most of them are people of color.

The NYTimes covered the controversy leading into a recent meeting of Pope Benedict and a conference of Latin American bishops. There remains a tension in the Church between conservatives like Benedict and those who are faithful to Vatican II and liberation theology.

The prior Pope John Paul II was no raging liberal but he did work hard as an ambassador among faiths. He looked to bring a broad outlook to the many ways Catholicism has adapted to local cultures around the world. He apologized to Jews and to Latin America’s Indians for sins of the Church in the past.

People in Brazil were shocked when the Pope told his Latin American bishops:

“Christ is the Saviour for whom they were silently longing,” Benedict told a regional conference of bishops in Brazil.

But Paulo Suess, an adviser to Brazil’s Indian Missionary Council, said Monday that the comments fail to account for the fact that Indians were enslaved and killed by the Portuguese and Spanish settlers who forced them to become Catholic.

Benedict “is a good theologian, but it seems he missed some history classes,” said Suess, whose council is supported by the Roman Catholic Church.

The Pope told the bishops that, “the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture.”

Reuters reported:

Pope John Paul spoke in 1992 of mistakes in the evangelization of native peoples of the Americas.

Pope Benedict not only upset many Indians but also Catholic priests who have joined their struggle, said Sandro Tuxa, who heads the movement of northeastern tribes.

“We repudiate the Pope’s comments,” Tuxa said. “To say the cultural decimation of our people represents a purification is offensive, and frankly, frightening.

“I think (the Pope) has been poorly advised.”

Even the Catholic Church’s own Indian advocacy group in Brazil, known as Cimi, distanced itself from the Pope.

This is the same guy who quoted a Byzantine era Christian emperor saying:

“Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

Benedict XVI is the Jerry Falwell of Catholicism. It’s time for more people both inside and outside the church to push back against his hateful and divisive agenda.

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