Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pope Francis meets with Adolfo Perez Esquivel and other leaders about indigenous rights and liberation theology

On Monday, June 24th, Pope Francis met a second time with Argentine human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel and with Felix Diaz, leader of the Qom ethnic tribe's "La Primavera" Community, Diaz's wife Amanda Asijak, and Fr. Francisco Nazar, vicar for the indigenous populations of the Diocese of Formosa, Argentina.


During the meeting, the leaders denounced the persecution and systematic violations of human rights that the native peoples of Argentina are suffering and expressed concern for the protection of those rights, especially with respect to land and cultural identity. After the meeting, Diaz stated that the Pope told them he had decided to include the indigenous issue on his agenda and that he had asked them to join him in the struggle against injustice in the world. "He asked us to join him and support him to fight this unjust world. And he's very interested in including the indigenous issue on the agenda," the indigenous leader said. Diaz later expressed his confidence that the Pontiff would be able to intercede for the demands of the indigenous peoples both in Argentina and throughout Latin America.

However, the meeting did not simply address indigenous rights. Perez Esquivel also brought the Pope a message from Brazilian Bishop Emeritus Pedro Casaldaliga whom he had phoned before going to Rome -- a plea for the Church to defend the indigenous people and reconcile with liberation theology. "I brought him a message from Pedro Casáldáliga, who told me, 'You're going to see Francis. Tell him to try to listen, reflect, and reach an agreement, a reconciliation with the Latin American theologians. To be concerned about the whole problem of the native peoples on the continent.'," Perez Esquivel said.

After the meeting, Perez Esquivel said he thought that the Pope would probably move towards what Casaldaliga is asking for. "Pope Francis is committed to the poor...I think [he] will promote reconciliation with liberation theology. The Pope is a pastor; the others were just functionaries. That's the difference," he pointed out.

Perez Esquivel also revealed that during the 45-minute meeting, he gave Pope Francis a copy of the Pact of the Catacombs that was signed by around 40 progressive bishops during the Second Vatican Council, including many from Latin America, in which they made a commitment to live simply and in solidarity with the poor.

Perez Esquivel said that when Pope Francis saw the names of  Helder Cámara, Luigi Betazzi, Manuel Larraín, Leónidas Proaño, Sergio Méndez Arceo and Faustino Zazpe among the signatories, he exclaimed, "Wow, look who's there!" He said that the Pope was very interested in the subject and that, although he didn't commit to anything, he said he was going to think about it.

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