Sicut Dudum

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Sicut Dudum
(Latin: Just As Long Ago)
Encyclical Letter of Pope Eugene IV
C o a Eugenio IV.svg
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Date 13 January 1435
Argument Forbade enslavement of local natives of the Canary Islands who had converted to Christianity
Encyclical number of the pontificate
Text in Latin
in English

Sicut Dudum (English: Just As Long Ago) is a papal bull promulgated by Pope Eugene IV in Florence on January 13, 1435, which forbade the enslavement of local natives in the Canary Islands who had converted or were converting to Christianity. "Sicut Dudum" was meant to reinforce "Creator Omnium", issued the previous year, condemning Portuguese slave raids in the Canary Islands. Over forty years after "Creator Omnium" and "Sicut Dudum, Pope Sixtus IV found it necessary repeat the prohibition in his papal bull "Regimini Gregis" which threatened the excommunication of all captains or pirates who enslaved Christians.


Location of Canary Islands

Christianity had gained many converts in the Canary Islands by the early 1430s; however, the ownership of the lands had been the subject of dispute between Portugal and the Kingdom of Castille. The lack of effective control had resulted in periodic raids on the islands to procure slaves. Acting on a complaint by Fernando Calvetos, bishop of the islands,[1] Pope Eugene IV issued a Papal bull, "Creator Omnium", on 17 December 1434, annulling previous permission granted to Portugal to conquer those islands still pagan. Eugene excommunicated anyone who enslaved newly converted Christians, the penalty to stand until the captive was restored to their liberty and possessions.[2]

Sicut Dudum[edit]

Portuguese soldiers continued to raid the islands during 1435 and Eugene issued a further edict (Sicut Dudum) that affirmed the ban on enslavement,[2] and ordered, under pain of excommunication, that all such slaves to be immediately set free:

We order and command all and each of the faithful of each sex, within the space of fifteen days of the publication of these letters in the place where they live, that they restore to their earlier liberty all and each person of either sex who were once residents of said Canary Islands, and made captives since the time of their capture, and who have been made subject to slavery. These people are to be totally and perpetually free, and are to be let go without the exaction or reception of money.[3]

Joel S Panzer views "Sicut Dudum" as a significant condemnation of slavery, issued sixty years before the Europeans found the New World.[4]

Eugene tempered Sicut Dudum with another bull (15 September 1436) due to the complaints made by King Duarte of Portugal, that allowed the Portuguese to conquer any unconverted parts of the Canary Islands. The king suggested that Portugal be authorized to evangelize and civilize the islands, as other less reputable persons were unlikely to heed the pontiff. Without a navy of his own to police the islands, the Pope opted in favor of the Portuguese as the lesser of two evils.[5]

Political weakness compelled the Renaissance Papacy to adopt an acquiescent and unchallenging position when approached for requests for privileges in favour of these ventures.[1]

In 1476 Pope Sixtus IV reiterated the concerns expressed in "Sicut Dunum" in his papal bull, "Regimini Gregis" where he threatened to excommunicate all captains or pirates who enslaved Christians.


  1. ^ a b Housley, Norman. Religious Warfare in Europe 1400-1536, Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 9780198208112
  2. ^ a b Raiswell, Richard. "Eugene IV, Papal bulls of", The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery, Junius P. Rodriguez ed., ABC-CLIO, 1997 ISBN 9780874368857
  3. ^ Panzer, Joel S., Appendix B of Fr. Joel S. Panzer's book, "The Popes and Slavery", Appendix B, Society of St. Paul, 1996
  4. ^ Panzer, Joel S., "The Popes and Slavery", Homiletic & Pastoral Review, December 1996
  5. ^ Stogre, Michael. That the World May Believe: The Development of Papal Social Thought on Aboriginal Rights, Chap.2, "Alexander Vi and the bulls of Demarcation", p.65, Médiaspaul, 1992, ISBN 9782890395497


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