Pope Francis became “a spokesman for the deepest longings of indigenous peoples” in the message disseminated in recent days on his Worldwide Prayer Network, the Apostleship of Prayer. Speaking in Spanish the Pope said that his universal prayer intention for the month of July is respect for those populations whose origins in a particular place date back to prehistoric times. “I want you to add your voice to mine”, the Pope urges, while images move across the screen displaying the faces of men and women from different ethnic groups in traditional dress, “in a heartfelt prayer that all will respect indigenous peoples, threatened in their identity and even in their existence”.
The video message for July on the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network was inspired by the speech of Saint John Paul II addressed to indigenous people at the Latacunga airport in Ecuador on 31 January 1985. It was an important part of his apostolic journey, which, 30 years ago, took him to Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago from 26 January to 5 February. On that occasion Saint John Paul II told the indigenous people that he wanted to be “a spokesman for” their “deepest longings”. Pope Francis revived those words in the days marking the first anniversary of his trip to Latin America, during which he travelled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay from 5 to 12 July 2015.
In each of these three countries, the first Latin American Pope spent time meeting with indigenous peoples, and the liturgies celebrated there contained elements of native languages, arts and cultures, such as Quechua or Guarani. In particular, while participating in the Second Meeting of World Popular Movements, held at the Expo Feria Exhibition Centre in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, on Thursday, 9 July 2015, Pope Francis quoted his predecessor’s specific request for forgiveness. “I wish to be quite clear, as was Saint John Paul II: I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offences of the Church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America”.
Watch the Pope’s prayer video for July.