SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — Pope Francis offered a direct apology on Thursday for the complicity of the Roman Catholic Church in the oppression of Latin America during the colonial era, even as he called for a global social movement to shatter a “new colonialism” that has fostered inequality, materialism and the exploitation of the poor.
Speaking to a hall filled with social activists, farmers, garbage workers and Bolivian indigenous people, Francis offered the most ambitious, and biting, address of his South American tour.
He repeated familiar themes in sharply critiquing the global economic order and warning of environmental catastrophe — but also added a twist with his apology.
“Some may rightly say, ‘When the pope speaks of colonialism, he overlooks certain actions of the church,’ ” Francis said. “I say this to you with regret: Many grave sins were committed against the native people of America in the name of God.”
He added: “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.”