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“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to
observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even
to the end of the age.”1 A simple directive spoken by God himself through Jesus
Christ in the Sermon at the Mount, this Great Commission has impacted a
countless number of lives throughout the years. The command given by Jesus at
that time was actually to act as a continuance of His ministry after his death.

Apparently this command continued to be fulfilled even far beyond His ascension
into heaven. The commandment sparked the beginning of Christianity and
throughout the years, its cultures, religions and beliefs poured out upon the
continents, including the New World. The intent of this report is to show the
transfer of Christianity from the Old World to the Americas; it is to outline
its beginnings and show its impact on the Indian people.

The Catholic Church during the Middle Ages played an all encompassing
role over the lives of the people and the government. As the Dark Ages came to a
close the ideas of the Renaissance started to take hold, and the church’s power
gradually began to dwindle. The monarchies of Europe also began to grow
replacing the church’s power. Monarchies, at the close of the Middle Ages and
the dawn of the Renaissance, did not so much seek the guidance of the church as
much as it sought their approval. However, the Church during the Age of
Discovery was still a major influence. The discovery of the New World and its
previously unknown inhabitants presented new problems in the Catholic Church in
the late 14th and early 15th century. When Spain’s rulers and emissaries decided
to physically conquer and populate the New World, and not just trade with it,
the transplantation of Christian institutions followed.

The church established contact with the New World, and made it a goal to
establish the Catholic doctrines among the native population there. The Catholic
Church and the Spanish monarch, however, looked upon the native population in
the New World as souls to be saved. They did not consider or treat the Indians
as equals. To them, the population seemed to mean more than the individual’s
spiritual standpoint. The implanting of Christianity in the New World, and the
treatment of the native population by the missionaries and Christian conquerors
was harmful or even destructive to New World. Through men such as Cortez and
Bartolome Las Casas, accounts of the conversions have been recorded. One of the
reasons for this was the alliance of the Catholic Church with the Spanish
monarchy. The status of the Indians was irrelevant and disregarded by the
Christian conquerors and missionaries who wanted to convert them. The
missionaries subjected them to violence and reduced them to a laboring
population. The Indians, however did not always respond in a negative way to the
work of the church.

The Catholic Church arrived in the New World immediately after
Christopher Columbus laid claim to it for Spain. After Columbus’s discovery of
the new lands he wrote a series of treaties as to what the European purpose
there was. Columbus, in his writings, said that the purpose of the New World was
two-fold. He said that: (1) The gospel message of the church should be spread
globally beginning with his discoveries in the New World. and (2) Second, he
stated that the riches discovered in the New World should be dedicated to the
recapture of Jerusalem from the Moslems.2 Columbus saw the discovery of the New
World as a prophesy coming true. He saw the Indians that lived there as a labor
source that should be Christianized and used for the greater good of the church.

The implementation of his two fold plan had its difficulties; However, this did
not stop or discredit the use of this part of the plan as a prime directive of
the New World.

Two papal bulls or verdicts were issued in the year of 1493 that
established the Spanish position in the New World.3 They also established the
role that the church was going to play in the New World. The first bull was
issued on May 3 given the name Inter Caetera. It said that the lands discovered
by Spanish envoys not previously under a Christian owner could be claimed by
Spain. The bull also gave the Spanish monarch the power to send men to convert