Anger at Pope's Brazil comments


May 14, 2007

Indigenous leaders in Brazil have reacted angrily to Pope Benedict's comments that their predecessors had willingly converted to Christianity.

One Amazon Indian leader, Jecinaldo Satere Mawe, said the Pope's remarks had been arrogant and disrespectful.

Pope Benedict XVI told Latin American bishops in Brazil that American Indians had been "silently longing" to become Christians 500 years ago.

The Pope has now returned home after his five-day trip to Brazil.

The Vatican has made no further comment.

'Wrong and indefensible'

The BBC's Emilio San Pedro said the Pope had said the Christianisation of the region had not involved an alienation of the pre-Colombian cultures.

Our correspondent said Pope Benedict also made no mention of the violent history that followed or the documented decimation of native cultures in favour of the Christian model Conquistadores and other Europeans colonisers.

He said the comments had even been criticised by the Catholic Church's Indian advocacy group in Brazil, which described the Pope's statement as wrong and indefensible