Te Runanga o Te Hahi Katorika ki Aotearoa chair Sr Tui Cadigan, RSM, said she would be open to a thorough discussion on a call by the Māori Council’s executive director for an apology from Pope Francis for acts by some of his predecessors that laid the basis for the colonisation of Aotearoa.

“This has not been discussed or even raised by Te Rūnanga delegates, however, l would be open to a thorough discussion on the issue and benefits for Māori pastoral care should it arise,” she said.

Sr Cadigan said she understands the basis of the request by Māori Council executive director Matthew Tukaki.

“As Kaiwhakahaere of Te Rūnanga o Te Hahi Katorika o Aotearoa, l have not been asked by the New Zealand Māori Council for an opinion from Te Rūnanga regarding any apology being sought by executive director Matthew Tukaki from His Holiness Pope Francis over colonisation of Aotearoa,” she said.

“My thought on the issue of the request to Pope Francis, is that any person of Māori whakapapa is free to make such a request. I have no indication from my iwi (Ngai Tahu) that we are seeking an apology or supporting any such request”, she told NZ Catholic.

Mr Tukaki, in a video posted on his Facebook page, said papal bulls had given Catholic European monarchs permission “to take lands from first nations peoples because they were not Christian”.

Papal bulls such as Pope Alexander VI’s Inter Caetera, issued in 1493, gave rise to the discovery doctrine, which gave European entities the legal and political justification to colonise lands outside of Europe.

He said this caused “intergenerational trauma” among First Nations people, including Māori.

“A lot of people will blame the state and so they should. A lot of people would blame the Crown and they must. A lot of people will blame their colonial masters and they should. But we should also go right back to the heart of where many of these began and that was with the doctrine of discovery and the Vatican,” he said.

Mr Tukaki clarified he does not speak on behalf of First Nations peoples or even Māori people.

“But I do speak on behalf of those who might feel that the Vatican needs to be held to account for the sins of their past. And this was a sin,” he said. “It is time for an accounting, an accounting of the Vatican to ensure that this document is expunged, is reinterpreted, and an apology issued to indigenous people right across the world.”

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