Pope Francis Compares Tribal Headdress to Cardinal’s Hat

Amazon headdress and cardinal's berretta
Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images

ROME — Pope Francis came to the defense of the indigenous people who have come to participate in the Vatican synod on the Amazon, saying their tribal wear is not much different from the odd hats that Church officials wear.

“Yesterday I was very sorry to hear a mocking comment about a pious man who carried the offerings with feathers on his head,” the pope said in his opening address to the synod Monday, referring to a man who had appeared at Mass wearing a feathered headdress.

“Tell me: what is the difference between wearing feathers on your head and the berretta that some of our ministry officials use?” he asked, in reference to the three-pointed “red hat” worn by cardinals.

Francis said that drawing distinctions between “civilized people” and “barbarians” is out of place, adding that in ages past this distinction served as a justification for “annihilating the majority of the native peoples, because they were considered barbarians.”

“I take the experience of my homeland, where this ‘civilization and barbarism’ that served to annihilate peoples continues today with offensive words, and we speak of second-class civilization, in regard to those who come from barbarism,” he said.

Through his address, the pope urged his hearers to be more open to the wisdom and culture of indigenous peoples.

“We approach the Amazonian peoples on tiptoe, respecting their history, their cultures, their style of good living,” the pope said, “because all peoples have their own identity, all peoples have their own wisdom, self-awareness, peoples have a way of feeling, a way of seeing reality, a history, a hermeneutic and tend to be protagonists of their own history with these things, with these qualities.”

We approach the Amazonian peoples “far from ideological colonizations that destroy or reduce the idiosyncrasies of peoples,” he said. “Today this ideological colonization is so common.”

“We also approach them without the entrepreneurial desire to impose pre-prepared programs on them, to ‘discipline’ the Amazonian peoples, discipline their history, their culture,” the pope said.

We must reject the “desire to tame the native peoples,” he added.

In the past, Francis said, the Church sometimes forgot that its role was not to tame native peoples, and because of this, “it was not inculturized,” but even reached “the point of scorning certain peoples.”

“Ideologies are a dangerous weapon,” Francis said. “We always tend to seize an ideology in order to interpret a people. Ideologies are reductive and lead us to exaggerate in our attempt to understand intellectually, but without accepting, understand without admiring, understand without assuming, and then reality is received in categories, the most common of which are the categories of ‘isms.’”

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