White smoke rose from the chimney in Vatican City Wednesday morning letting the world know a new Pope had been chosen. Shortly after it was announced Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected, becoming the first pontiff from a Latin American country according to The Washington Post.
The 266th pontiff has taken the name Pope Francis.
“It’s a genius move,” Marco Politi, a papal biographer and veteran Vatican watcher, said of the choice of Bergoglio according to The Post. “It’s a non-Italian, non-European, not a man of the Roman government. It’s an opening to the Third World, a moderate. By taking the name Francis, it means a completely new beginning.”
A new beginning that hopefully will be beneficial to American Indians. The day before the new pope was named, the Onondaga Nation called on the next Pope to revoke the Doctrine of Discovery, which evolved from a papal decree written by Pope Nicholas V in 1455 according to The New York Daily News.
“Now is the time for the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church to extend a hand and talk about these issues,” said Tonya Gonella-Frichner, the president of the American Indian Law Alliance in the Daily News.
The Doctrine has been used as a moral justification of the European conquest of indigenous people around the world and remains influential in legal circles.
Oftentimes the go to reference in arguing that American Indians were not owners of the land known as Turtle Island.
The announcement of Bergoglio could be exactly what indigenous people were looking for in a supporter in denouncing the Doctrine. According to Reuters, Bergoglio is a moderate with strong negotiating skills who feels a deep concern about the social inequalities rife in his homeland and elsewhere in Latin America.
"His character is in every way that of a moderate. He is absolutely capable of undertaking the necessary renovation without any leaps into the unknown. He would be a balancing force," said Francesca Ambrogetti, who co-authored a biography of Bergoglio after carrying out a series of interviews with him over three years according to Reuters.
However, his past isn’t without controversy. According to Reuters some claim the new Pope’s vocational success came during the bloody 1976-1983 military dictatorship, that saw up to 30,000 suspected leftists kidnapped and killed including two Jesuits who were secretly jailed for working in poor neighborhoods.
His supporters say there is no proof and that he in fact helped many escape the military junta’s rule.
American Indians from the Iroquois Confederacy are currently in New York City rallying at the National Museum of the American Indian to commemorate a 400-year-old treaty with the Dutch the Daily News reports. Discussions of the Doctrine were expected to continue through the rallies, and during a 13-day canoe trip in August from Albany to New York City to symbolize the common ground shared with European settlers.
Now with a new Pope named, Gonella-Frichner’s words in the Daily News are fitting, “there are over 500 million indigenous people throughout the world – they’d like a response from the Holy See.”