The Vatican has rejected the Doctrine of Discovery a year after Pope Francis met with Indigenous groups from Canada and delivered his first apology for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools.

A statement from the Vatican says the papal bulls, or decrees, “did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of Indigenous peoples.”

The 15th-century doctrine was connected to the idea that lands being colonized were empty, when in fact Indigenous people had long called them home.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops says in a statement it is grateful for the move Indigenous organizations had been urging.

A year ago First Nations, Metis and Inuit groups went to Rome to meet with Pope Francis and many told him the doctrine must be rejected.

The pontiff travelled to Canada in July for a six-day tour, during which he apologized repeatedly but was criticized for not addressing the papal bulls.

FSIN says “step in the right direction”

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations called Thursday’s announcement from the Vatican a step in the right direction.

In a statement, FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron says the Vatican has finally said what Indigenous people have always known.

“FSIN has said from the beginning that the Doctrine of Discovery is a colonialist and racist legal doctrine,” said Cameron. “Upon European arrival, it devastated our people and still devastates our Nations today. Our people were already living here on Turtle Island in distinct societies. We were not ‘discovered.’ The papal bull is a vile decree that led to the slaughter and genocide of Indigenous peoples around the world.”

(With files from the Canadian Press)