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Pope's Oceania Exhortation includes apology to Aboriginies

Pope John Paul II apologised to Australia's Aborigines and other indigenous peoples of Oceania for past "shameful injustices" of the Catholic Church, in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania, posted on the Internet late yesterday.

The Holy Father wrote that the church "apologised unreservedly" for the part played by its members "especially where children were forcibly separated from their families".

"Aware of the shameful injustices done to indigenous peoples in Oceania, the synod fathers apologised unreservedly for the part played in these by members of the church, especially where children were forcibly separated from their families," said the document signed by the Pope.

Wrongs done to the indigenous peoples needed to be honestly acknowledged, whether the truth had been suppressed by governments, their agencies or Christian communities, the document said.

Opting for the Internet instead of a journey across several time zones and climate changes appeared to be a victory for John Paul's doctors, who have been pressing him for years to slow down.

The Vatican said the pope decided to use Internet because the dioceses in Oceania are so far apart.

But such distances didn't stop him in the past from visiting his flock in that part of the world and John Paul seemed a bit wistful about not making the journey.

"I would have wished to visit Oceania once again," the pope said before sending the message on its way from his laptop computer. "But it was not to be."

The Pope's message also apologised to victims of sexual abuse by priests and other clergy.

"Sexual abuse by some clergy and religious has caused great suffering and spiritual harm to the victims," the Pope said in a small part of the 120-page document.

"It (sexual abuse) has been very damaging in the life of the church and has become an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel."

In what appeared to be a reference to the sexual abuse of nuns in parts of the developing world, the Pope said: "The synod fathers wished to apologise unreservedly to the victims for the pain and disillusionment caused to them." He said the church in Oceania was seeking what he called "open and just" procedures to respond to complaints.

Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania (Full Text)
Ecclesia in Oceania (Order copies from St Paul's Publications)

Pope apologises to indigenous people (ABC)
Pope's Web apology over sex abuse (CNN)
Pope Sends Document Online (Newsday)
Pope offers Aborigines an apology (Herald-Sun)
A document to help evangelisation (Fides)
Oceania: the consecrated life is vital for the continent especially the contemplative life (Vidimus Dominum)

The Age