Pope Francis apologized Thursday for what he called the Roman Catholic Church's complicity in committing "grave sins" against Native Americans "in the name of God" during the oppression of Latin America in the colonial era.
In an address in Bolivia at the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, a congress of global activists working to mobilize and help the poor, the pope also called for a global social movement to break down the "new colonialism" that has exploited the poor and promoted inequality and materialism, according to a report in The New York Times.
"Some may rightly say, 'When the pope speaks of colonialism, he overlooks certain actions of the church,'" said Francis. "I say this to you with regret: Many grave sins were committed against the native people of America in the name of God."
He continued: "I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offense of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America."
Bolivia, according to the report, was severely exploited during Spanish rule. The country's silver deposits helped finance the Spanish empire, bankroll European colonialism in other places and filled the treasury of the Vatican.
Evo Morales, Bolivia's president is a longtime leftist critic of the church praised the pontiff — the first pope ever elected from Latin America — prior to the pope making his statement.
"For the first time, I feel like I have a pope: Pope Francis," said Morales.
When the pope addressed the issues of inequality in the new economic system, the people cheered when he encouraged them to organize and fight against exploitation and oppression.
"I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands, through your ability to organize and carry out creative alternatives, through your daily efforts to ensure the three Ls — labor, lodging, land," said Francis.
"Human beings and nature must not be at the service of money," he added. "Let us say no to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service. That economy kills. That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth."
Despite his condemnation of global economic system, however, Francis said he did not have a solution to it.
"Don't expect a recipe from this pope," he said. "Neither the pope nor the church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social reality or the proposal of solution to contemporary issues. I dare say no recipe exists."