N”COBRA-Chicago’s Press Conference Address on the Omissions by the Pope on His Visit to America
Good Evening. N’COBRA, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, Chicago Chapter would like to thank everyone for coming out this evening. We are here to address the Omissions from the Pope’s messages during his visit to the US in relationship to people of African descent. In addition, we are calling on all people of African descent, with a special invitation to Black Catholics, and the Catholic community in general, to stand with us. Our efforts here are to continue a conversation – to continue honest dialog, with aims at righting historical wrongs committed by the Roman Catholic Church against Africans and people of African descent – wrongs that continue to negatively impact us globally on a daily basis.
We are not here to cast in dispersion, confront or attack the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, or the Catholic community in US, Chicago, or world-wide –Black, white, Hispanic or other. We are here to tell the truth and, again, call for action that would assist in the repair of African peoplehood globally.
Let us begin by indicating that we were pleased that Pope Francis evoked the memory and spirit of our great ancestor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr during one of his addresses. And I quote Pope Francis, “To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.”
In invoking Dr. King’s spirit, with this particular statement, Pope Francis has opened the door to the discussion on reparations. As we know, Dr. King made this statement in the context of calling for reparations or reparatory justice in America.
Since this door was cracked by Pope Francis, we would like to open it fully so we can see the depth of the Church’s role in the injury of African people and the fullness of Its obligation to join in our repair.
First the injury.
Historical record will affirm that Roman Catholic Church:
- Ordered the destruction of African nations, the genocide of Native nations and the enslavement of Africans and their descendants
Beginning in 1411 and 1430 Pope Martin V issued two papal bulls said to have created and established the international slave trade. Ordering the Portuguese to go into Africa ignoring all laws of sovereignty and divine rights and invade, plunder and reduce its inhabitants to perpetual slavery. His successor, Pope Eugene IV, ratified his orders in 1438, extending to Spain the same mission in what would become the Americas.
In 1452, Pope Nicholas V wrote in a separate edict for Spain ordering and granting
“free and ample faculty to invade, search out, expunge, vanquish and subdue all pagans and enemies of Christ whosoever placed, and their persons to reduce to perpetual slavery, and all their kingdoms, possessions and goods to apply and appropriate, …
In 1458, his successor, Pope Calixtus III, continued this grant to Spain and Portugal.
Papal Bulls of 1492 and 1493 authorized the Monarchs to “Invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue” all and appropriate and “goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery.”
Finally 1537, Pope Paul III abolished the enslavement of indigenous peoples in the Americas, denying the humanity of Africans and setting in motion the brutal enslavement of Africans and people of African descent that continued for more than 350 years after.
- Inaugurated the racial hatred and racial structuring of the world that has Africans and African descendants on the bottom of humanity in the areas of the recognition of the value of their humanity and the safety and respect of their persons and property. Prior to the orders of the Church mentioned above, Africans and people of African descent where held in high esteem, and in many cases the highest place of esteem and respect globally among humanity.
For instance, when the first Europeans entered Africa -Egypt, the Greek historian Herodotus – who described them physically as having woolly hair and burnt skin, also described them as gods and the Greeks as children in caparison. The Romans held the Ethiopians in high regards and enjoyed diplomatic relations as equals.
In the East, we know that the first Chinese dynasty was founded by African descendants. Also, statuary all over the Orient shows that Buddha, himself, was of African descent. And in Japan, it was commonly asserted that in order to be a true Samurai, you had to have part African blood.
Throughout Eastern Europe prior to the Church’s orders, the Black Madonna and Child were venerated in nearly every cathedral for hundreds of years. Even in what is now called the Americas, Afrikans were held in high esteem, as the temples and colossal heads of the Olmecs, the first American civilization, attests.
It was only after the Church’s official orders and the actions of those who received them, did Africans begin to suffer from this global abuse of denigration of our unique historical character; and
- The Roman Catholic Church has, and is still, benefiting the most from those crimes against African humanity. To quote a internet sites,
“The Catholic Church is the biggest financial power, wealth accumulator and property owner in existence. She is a greater possessor of material riches than any other single institution, corporation, bank, giant trust, government or state of the whole globe”
“[The Church’s wealth] in the US alone is greater than that of the five wealthiest giant corporations of the country. When to that is added all the real estate, property and stocks and shares abroad, the staggering accumulation of the wealth of the Catholic Church becomes so formidable as to defy any rational assessment.”
Now, the Church’s obligation.
With the Church’s history described above, in addition to Its global position, and at a time when Black life is being extinguished in America in epidemic numbers, it is of grave importance that Pope Francis specifically address this history and the need for America and American Catholics and their institutions to focus their attention and resources on these conditions of African descendants.
Therefore, we calling all religious and spiritual people to stand with us as we call upon Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic Church to
- Offer an official apology of these actions by the Church that has led to the continued devastation of African life and limitation of their life chances in America and globally.
- Full recognition of the role It has played in shaping a global racial consciousness that discriminates against, marginalizes and oppresses Africans and people of African descent 24/7/365 no matter where we exist on the planet.
- Immediate and full use of its global resources to assist reparatory justice organs in reversing this anti-African global racial consciousness and its effects;
- Immediate and full use of Its geo-political influence in calling on America and all Western countries to move swiftly and without reserve in acknowledging, observing, and fulfilling the mission of the International Decade of People of African Descent 2015-2024, declared by the United Nations.
N’COBRA thank all for coming out and urge you all to contact the Archdiocese in Chicago to share your views on this important issue of reparatory justice and demand a continuation of this conversation that Pope Francis has begun.