OCEANIA/AUSTRALIA - “A prophetic moment in the history of our country”: Bishops, movements, and Catholic faithful of Australia applaud the government for its “apologies” to the aborigines

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Sydney (Agenzia Fides) - The day following the solemn celebration in which the Australian government presented its “formal apologies” to the aboriginal people for the “Stolen Generation” (see Fides 31/01/2008), an exclamation of joy and contentment arose from the Australian Catholic Church. The Catholic community, in every sector, from Bishops to laity, has very much appreciated the gesture and has expressed their joy and hope for a future of reconciliation, peace, and progress for the entire Australian society.
Speaking on behalf of the Episcopal Conference, its President, Bishop Philip Wilson, calls it, “a prophetic moment in the country’s history,” that opens wide the doors of hope for a better future. “We recall on this day our own statement, issued in 1998, in which we sought forgiveness from the victims of the policy that broke up indigenous families, for any part the Church played in causing them harm and suffering,” he said. “Today,” he continued, “the Catholic Bishops of Australia wish to record our commitment to continue the healing process for the benefit of victims of the unjust policies of the past, to support the just needs of indigenous people today and to contribute to the quest for national reconciliation”. According to the Archbishop, for true healing to come about, it must be recognised as a point of arrival and a point of departure.
The National Council of Priests reiterated the Bishops’ sentiments, commending the Government for formally apologising. Chairman of the Council, Fr. Ian McGinnity, recalling the suffering of the aborigines in the past, said that many priests are currently working in the frontline to provide education and progress to the indigenous communities: “We are dedicated to promoting the well-being of indigenous Australians with all people of good-will throughout our country...working towards a brighter future for all Australians.”
The Episcopal Vicar for Justice and Social Services for the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Bishop Christopher Prowse, commented, “This apology is a further major step on the long road towards healing and reconciliation for all Australians. The Archdiocese of Melbourne re-commits itself to working closely with our indigenous friends.”
Other organisations as well, of religious and laity, have expressed their joy and have asked that the government continue on this same road, financing and carrying out projects for economic, social, and cultural progress for the aboriginal communities, increasing their well-being and contributing to their total integration into Australian society. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 14/2/2008 righe 30, parole 395)