He'll have a chance to enhance that reputation today when he visits Bolivia's notorious Palmasola prison. Francis 'humbly' begged forgiveness yesterday at a gathering of indigenous leaders in Bolivia in the presence of Bolivia's first-ever indigenous president, Evo Morales, the climactic high of Francis' week long South American tour.

In the speech, Francis noted that Latin American church leaders in the past had acknowledged that 'grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God'.

St John Paul II, for his part, apologized to the continent's indigenous for the "pain and suffering" caused during the 500 years of the church's presence in the Americas during a 1992 visit to the Dominican Republic. But Francis went further, and said he was doing so with 'regret'.

"I would also say, and here I wish to be quite clear, as was St John Paul II: I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offences of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America," he said.

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