Vatican Rejects Catholic Doctrine Justifying Colonialism

Image: OHCHR

Mr Calí Tzay, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples commended the Vatican’s rejection of the “Doctrine of Discovery”, a centuries-old Catholic decree used to justify the seizure of indigenous lands by colonial powers. He said the Holy See has “taken an important step towards reconciliation and healing with Indigenous Peoples by rejecting all concepts that fail to recognise their inherent human rights”.

The papal Doctrine of Discovery was understood to have given European colonial powers the right to claim sovereignty over indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands and resources in the Americas, Africa, and other parts of the world “based on their supposed lack of civilisation and religion”. Through the national laws, legislation, and jurisprudence for which it provided a legal basis, the doctrine continues to negatively impact the full realization of indigenous rights in some countries, especially in regard to land rights. Therefore, the Special Rapporteur calls upon all States that still apply the Doctrine of Discovery to follow the Vatican’s lead and review legislation that relies on its principle.

Further details are available on the website of the OHCHR.


Author: Laura Vizi