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Aboriginal Catholic Commission says Pope's apology marks new beginning

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) and have welcomed the Pope's apology to the Stolen Generations.

In a joint statement with the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, NATSICC Chairperson Vicki Walker said the apology is a sigh that the Pope cares.

"We are really pleased to receive this apology from the Pope," she said. "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."

Ms Walker described the apology as "a new beginning" in the relationship between Aboriginal Australians and the Church.

She said: "This is one of the most historical statements I've seen addressing the injustices suffered by Indigenous peoples."

Meanwhile Australia's first female Aboriginal MP has welcomed the Pope's decision to apologise to indigenous Australians for past injustices.

Labor MP for the WA seat of Kimberley, Carol Martin - herself a member of the Stolen Generations - says the Pope's apology is welcome.

"If the Pope is big enough to do that, then let's hope ... our national leader is big enough to do the same."

Ms Martin says saying sorry is the first step in the healing process for all Australians."

In the Northern Territory, Croker Island Stolen Generation Aboriginal Corporation chairman Maurie Ryan-Japarta called for the Church to back up the Pope's apology with monetary compensation.

"The church has a lot of money and because we've been concentrating on the court cases (against the commonwealth) we have not taken on the churches," Mr Ryan-Japarta said.

Mr Ryan-Japarta added tgat the pope's apology was an example to Prime Minister John Howard that he should apologise on behalf of Australia for past commonwealth policies of removing children from their families.

Text of Apostolic Exhortation