Australian Aborigines Thank Pope for Apology

In Response to His «Mea Culpa» in Exhortation «Church in Oceania»

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MELBOURNE, Australia, NOV. 23, 2001 ( Two Australian groups welcomed John Paul II´s apology to the indigenous peoples of Oceania.

In the apostolic exhortation «Ecclesia in Oceania» (The Church in Oceania) published Thursday, the Pope solemnly asks for forgiveness from the aborigines for the abuses they suffered at the hands of children of the Church. He also announces the creation of «truth commissions.»

«It shows that he hasn´t forgotten our people since he met with us in Alice Springs in 1986, and that he cares for us,» said Vicki Walker, chairwoman of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council.

«This marks a new beginning in our relationship with the Church,» she said in a statement. «This is one of the most historical statements I´ve seen addressing the injustices suffered by indigenous peoples.»

«This is great news,» said Bishop William Morris, acting chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council.

«The stories of pain inflicted by the actions of Church people, even though they may have acted out of good intentions, have been heard at the highest levels in the Church,» the bishop said. «By acknowledging the past and asking forgiveness, as leader of the Catholic Church, the Pope has helped us all to go forward together.»

The Aboriginal council is a national body of indigenous Catholics and advises the Australian Catholic Bishops in relation to matters affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The social justice council is the national justice and peace agency of the Catholic Church in Australia.

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