Romanus Pontifex (full text)

By 1452 the Portuguese were anxious to establish their property rights over their newly discovered West African territories, and so Pope Nicholas V was approached and was apparently led to believe that these territories of the "Guinea Coast" were inhabited by "Saracens" and other enemies of Christendom.

The Portuguese were well aware, the local Negro inhabitants were not Saracens, were not Moslems, and were not the enemies of Christendom.

In 1452 Pope Nicholas V addressed a Brief to King Alfonso V of Portugal which included the following words:

... justly desiring that whatsoever concerns the integrity and spread of the faith, for which Christ our God shed his blood, shall flourish in the virtuous souls of the faithful. .. we grant to you by these present documents, with our Apostolic Authority, full and free permission to invade, search out, capture and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, and other property ... and to reduce their persons into perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate and convert to the use and profit of yourself and your successors, the Kings of Portugal, in perpetuity, the above-mentioned kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, and other property and possessions and suchlike goods ... (92)

Two years later, in 1454, Pope Nicholas V explicitly confirmed every word of his previous Brief in a longer one addressed to King Alfonso V: Brief Romanus Pontifex, January 8, 1454.

In this and in Romanus pontifex, it presumes the Papal right to dispose of the entire world - founded on an expanded reading of the forged “Donation of Constantine.”

1453 - Fall of Constantinople to the Turks, Nicholas was alarmed and tried to get European leaders to respond to the dangers of Islamic expansion. Alfonso was the only one to respond with any enthusiasm, declaring their readiness to push back Turks

The Pope wished to reward the Portuguese for their warfare against the Saracens and infidels, for their conquest of Saracen kingdoms and territories even when these were in far distant and hitherto unknown areas, and for subjecting them to the Portuguese Crown for the sake of the preservation and spread of the Christian Faith.

The Pope had been led to believe that the Saracens has already enslaved local negros and were teaching them to build ships that could be used against Christian forces at war with them.

And so, exercising his plenitudo potestatis, the Pope renewed his previous permission to conquer, expropriate and enslave the Saracens and pagans of those territories, and extended the rights of conquest and permissions previously granted not only to the territories already acquired but also to those which might be acquired in the future. The Pope renewed the ecclesiastical law against giving material assistance to the Saracens together with the penalties (enslavement on capture) for those who infringed this law.