why did the catholic church express interest in the exploration of foreign lands?
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easy to spread the religion. or to save the souls of the savage native people as they would have put it back then.
The Catholic Church is where all the intellectuals were in the Dark Ages. Where do you think anyone could go, in 1300 AD, who could learn to read and write, liked mathematics, and dreamt of nothing more than a life perusing old books, gazing at the heavens, and thinking about the nature of things? Your local warlord/king had no use for such dreamers. So those kinds of people ended up in the Church, which encouraged intellectual exploration and thought. Not surprisingly, these same people were quite interested in exploring other unknown lands.
The popular vision of the Church being a repressive force interested only in keeping the people ignorant is a huge lie propagated by the Protestant Enlightenment philosophers of England, the Netherlands, and Germany in the 17th century, and for the most part, it had narrow political purposes: to sully the reputation of the Emperor and King of France. It lives on in part because the United States, being thoroughly Protestant in its origin, has always had a strong anti-Catholic streak. There were those who doubted John Kennedy could be elected in 1960 because he was openly Roman Catholic.
This is not to say the Church has not on occasion been repressive, and dismissive of new science. It certainly has, just like all institutions of power. But if you believe it has always been primarily a repressive institution, you are unable to explain things like its early support for voyages of exploration.
The Catholic Church was interested in gaining new converts to the religion.