“I beg pardon, brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis said at a Mass here while speaking about all the mistreatment and exclusion that has been dealt to Mexico’s indigenous communities.
Francis had come to the heavily indigenous southern state of Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest region, to bring words of hope to the native peoples, but also to decry all they have suffered.
At the municipal stadium in San Cristobal de las Casas, the place personally chosen by Francis, the pope slammed “how in a systematic and structural way, your communities have been misunderstood and excluded from society.”
“Some have considered your values, your culture and your traditions inferior,” the pontiff told the communities representing Mexico’s 11 million Indians.
Others, he added, “have been carried away by power, money and the law of the market, they have stripped Indians of their lands or have caused them to be polluted.”
“How sad!” the pope said, while urging the general public to “examine your consciences” and ask for pardon.
Afterwards, improvising on his prepared sermon, he added a significant “I beg pardon, brothers and sisters.”
Francis spoke of these people’s wish “to live in freedom…where oppression, mistreatment and humiliation are not everyday occurrences” and again berated “the many ways attempts have been made to stifle that wish.”
“In many ways they have tried to anaesthetize your soul, in many ways they have tried to dull the lives of your children and young people with the idea that nothing can change and that thinking it can is an impossible dream.”
The Mass was a tribute to native peoples, from the altar to the wall hangings, but above all in the use of indigenous languages throughout the ceremony.
The pope’s approval of a decree authorizing the use of indigenous languages in liturgy and in Bible translations was one of the moments most applauded by the close to 90,000 Indians, including some from neighboring Guatemala, who had come to San Cristobal.
“Tatik (father) Francis: The entire indigenous community of Chiapas, of Mexico and of Guatemala is thankful for your visit here to our diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas,” Bishop Felipe Arizmendi read.
The Indian choruses praised the “pope of the poor” and also the late Samuel Ruiz, bishop of San Cristobal for 40 years, who at a certain time was strongly criticized by the Vatican for his leaning toward Liberation Theology.
Following the Mass, Francis went to the Cathedral of San Cristobal to pray before the tomb of Ruiz (1924-2011).