President of Mexico Andrés Manuel Lòpez Obrador said Monday he sent a letter to the Spanish government and Pope Francis asking them to apologize to the Mexicans for the conquest of the country 500 years ago.

He said in the letters sent to King Felipe VI of Spain and the Pope that there had been “killing” and “impositions”, and that the “so-called conquest was carried out with the sword and the cross.” The letter was sent March 1.

In a video he shared on Facebook and Twitter, he said, “I already sent a letter to the king of Spain and another letter to the Pope so that they ask forgiveness of the indigenous peoples for violations of what are now known as human rights. There were massacres and oppression. The so called conquest was waged with the sword and cross. They built their churches on top of the (indigenous) temples. The time has come to reconcile. But let us ask forgiveness first.”

Spain dominated Mexico for several centuries and was backed up by the Catholic Church. The Spanish conquest of Americas began after the 1490s when explorer Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. The conquest of Mexico began in 1519 after a small army led by Hérnan Cortés landed in the modern-day Veracruz state. The Aztec empire which ruled the area at the time was defeated, and that marked the beginning of the 300-year Spanish reign. Mexico became a federal republic in 1824 when it gained independence after a war lasting 12 years, from 1810 to 1821.

Lòpez Obrador spoke at an archaeological zone in the southeastern state of Tabasco and said the letter also had information about the massacres that took place in the early 16th century.

During the war, “thousands of people were murdered. One culture and civilization imposed itself on another. There are still open wounds. It’s better to recognize that abuses were committed, and mistakes were made. It’s better to ask forgiveness and seek to be brothers in reconciliation,” Lòpez Obrador said.

He also said that he would offer an apology too since the “repression of indigenous people continued after the colonial period.”

Spain is one of Mexico’s largest sources of foreign direct investment and the Mexican government is yet to sanction a new trade deal reached with the European Union in 2018.

The Spanish foreign ministry rejected the contents of Lòpez Obrador’s letter and issued a statement that said, “The government of Spain deeply regrets that the letter the Mexican president sent to his majesty the king, whose contents we firmly reject, has been made public. The arrival 500 years ago of the Spanish on present-day Mexican territory cannot be judged in light of contemporary considerations. Our two brother nations have always known how to read our shared past without anger and with a constructive perspective.”

Lòpez Obrador took the presidential office in December after a win that showed a firm break with Mexico’s traditional political parties. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón visited Mexico City earlier in 2019.