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Pope Francis apologizes for church's sins, decries poverty

Pope Francis acknowledged sins committed during Bolivian colonialism, and spoke against poverty caused by capitalism.

By Ed Adamczyk
Pope Francis is speaking out against the Catholic church's past sins and railing against poverty. He's pictured during the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession on Good Friday in front of the Colosseum in Rome Italy on April 4, 2015. File Photo by UPI file photo
Pope Francis is speaking out against the Catholic church's past sins and railing against poverty. He's pictured during the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession on Good Friday in front of the Colosseum in Rome Italy on April 4, 2015. File Photo by UPI file photo | License Photo

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia, July 10 (UPI) -- Pope Francis apologized for some of the Catholic church's sins and strongly voiced a call for social justice and environmentalism in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Speaking Thursday before social activists, farmers and indigenous Bolivians at the leftist World Meeting of Popular Movements, he admitted, "I say this to you with regret: many grave sins were committed against the native people of America in the name of God," a reference to colonial oppression and exploitation by European rulers.

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Pope Francis has been a staunch advocate of the poor, a critic of capitalism and a campaigner for environmentalism, and each was a focus of his passionate, two-hour address. Speaking in Spanish, he said, "Do we realize that something is wrong in a world where there are so many farm workers without land, so many families without a home, so many laborers without rights, so many persons whose dignity is not respected? Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature?"

"We want change in our lives, in our neighborhoods, in our everyday reality. We want a change which can affect the entire world, since global interdependence calls for global answers to local problems. The globalization of hope, a hope which springs up from peoples and takes root among the poor, must replace the globalization of exclusion and indifference!"

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He pointed out Catholics need to act quickly to save the environment, the topic of a June encyclical, noting, "Time, my brothers and sisters, is running out."

In his fourth day of a tour of South America, his speech in Santa Cruz was the strongest indication he intends to continue representing the world's marginalized people, as well as position himself as a defender of the environment.

On his way to perform a Mass at Santa Cruz' Christ the Redeemer Square Thursday, the pope ducked into a Burger King, closed for the morning, and changed into his priestly vestments. Store manager Alfredo Troche later explained the papal entourage "asked for help because this was an appropriate place and we had closed." The store quickly posted a Facebook thank-you to the Pope "for choosing the BK restaurant as your sacristy."

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