Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Saturday published an open letter to Pope Francis calling on the Roman Catholic Church to apologize for abuses of indigenous peoples during the conquest of Mexico in the 1500s.
“The Catholic Church, the Spanish monarchy and the Mexican government should make a public apology for the offensive atrocities that indigenous people suffered,” the letter says.
Lopez Obrador asked the pope to make a statement in favor of Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico’s 19th-century independence leader who was once believed to have been excommunicated by the church for his involvement in the uprising.
However, researchers later said it appeared that Hidalgo had confessed his sins before he was executed and thus was not excommunicated.
“I think it would be an act of humility and at the same time greatness” for the church to reconcile posthumously with Hidalgo, Lopez Obrador said.
He also asked Francis for the temporary return of several ancient indigenous manuscripts held in the Vatican library.
The letter was posted on Lopez Obrador’s Twitter account on Saturday, but was dated Oct. 2.
It was delivered to the pope by Lopez Obrador’s wife, Beatriz Gutierrez Muller, who met with him at the Vatican following a meeting she had on Friday with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
One of the three codices, or books, requested is the Codex Borgia, an especially colorful screen-fold book spread across dozens of pages that depicts gods and rituals from ancient central Mexico.
It is one of the best-preserved examples of pre-conquest Aztec-style writing that exists, after Catholic authorities in colonial-era Mexico dismissed such codices as the work of the devil and ordered hundreds or even thousands of them burned in the decades following the 1521 conquest.
In the letter, Lopez Obrador asked that the Vatican return the Codex Borgia, two other ancient codices as well as its maps of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan for a one-year loan next year.
The letter comes as Mexico struggles with how to mark the 500th anniversary of the 1519-to-1521 conquest, which resulted in the death of a large part of the country’s pre-Hispanic population.
Last year, Lopez Obrador asked Spain for an apology for the conquest.
Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said at the time that Spain “will not issue these apologies that have been requested.”
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