Pope Asks for Aborigines´ Forgiveness for Abuses by Priests

«Mea Culpa» Expressed in Apostolic Exhortation » Ecclesia in Oceania»

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 23, 2001 (Zenit.org).- In his apostolic exhortation «Ecclesia in Oceania,» John Paul II asks forgiveness from the continent´s indigenous peoples and victims for abuses committed by priests or religious.

The document, which includes the conclusions of the 1998 Synod of Oceania, was published Thursday.

In regard to indigenous peoples, in No. 28 of the document the Holy Father writes: «Whenever the truth has been suppressed by governments and their agencies or even by Christian communities, the wrongs done to the indigenous peoples need to be honestly acknowledged.»

For this reason, the «Synod supported the establishment of ´Truth Commissions,´ where these can help resolve historical injustices and bring about reconciliation within the wider community or the nation,» the Pope notes.

The Holy Father explains the spirit of reparation that must inspire this initiative.

«The past cannot be undone, but honest recognition of past injustices can lead to measures and attitudes that will help to rectify the damaging effects for both the indigenous community and the wider society,» he states.

The Pope´s solemn petition for forgiveness reads thus: «The Church expresses deep regret and asks forgiveness where her children have been or still are party to these wrongs.»

Moreover, the postsynodal document emphasizes the defense the Church will always make of the native cultures of the region, highlighting the culture of Australia´s Aborigines and New Zealand´s Maoris.

«The Church will support the cause of all indigenous peoples who seek a just and equitable recognition of their identity and their rights,» John Paul II states.

Sexual abuses, which sometimes have implicated priests, are the object of the second petition for forgiveness, articulated in No. 49 of «Ecclesia in Oceania» (The Church in Oceania).

«In certain parts of Oceania, sexual abuse by some clergy and religious has caused great suffering and spiritual harm to the victims,» the Pope writes. «It has been very damaging in the life of the Church and has become an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel.»

«The Synod Fathers condemned all sexual abuse and all forms of abuse of power, both within the Church and in society as a whole. Sexual abuse within the Church is a profound contradiction of the teaching and witness of Jesus Christ,» the Pope stresses.

Given what has happened, the «Synod Fathers wished to apologize unreservedly to the victims for the pain and disillusionment caused to them,» the document continues.

«The Church in Oceania is seeking open and just procedures to respond to complaints in this area, and is unequivocally committed to compassionate and effective care for the victims, their families, the whole community, and the offenders themselves,» the Pope concludes.

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