Sydney (Agenzia Fides) - The official apologies offered by the Australian government, now under the direction of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, will be presented to the aborigines February 13, for “the Stolen Generation” (see Fides 31/1/2008). The apologies represent an opportunity to overcome the conflict that exists within the Australian society, thus initiating a new season for reconciliation, understanding, peace, and social and cultural development. This is what the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has stated, manifesting its favour and optimism in regards to the gesture that has been declared by the Australian government as an intent to bring to a close one of the most painful chapters in Australian history in the past century. Prime Minister Rudd has stated that he considers the apologies to be “crucial and necessary... It’s building a bridge of respect, which I think has been in some state of disrepair in recent decades.”
The Bishops Commission for Relations with Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander People affirmed that the apology ceremony, with its great symbolism, will “free up the emotional logjam” and help Aboriginal people, as individuals and as a group, to approach their future with greater optimism and determination. Archbishop Barry Hickey, Archbishop of Perth and President of the Commission, mentioned that he believes the government’s gesture will be supported by many Australians, recalling that in 1967, the majority of the population voted in favour of a law guaranteeing full citizenship to Aboriginal people.
In this process of reception and acceptation, the Church in Australia has always made its contribution, “with the commitment to providing education, medical attention, social assistance,” and announcing the Gospel in the most remote areas of the country.
Ten years ago, in the Synod of Oceana celebrated in the Vatican in 1998, Australian bishops expressed their sorrow for the aborigines’ conditions. The same sentiment was also expressed in the Apostolic Exhortation “The Church in Oceana,” which was published in 2001 and called for the recognition of the injustices committed in the past against the Aboriginal community in order to begin a new era of peace and social harmony. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 7/2/2008; righe 29 parole 346)