AUSTRALIA’S Catholic bishops have hailed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to indigenous people for the Stolen Generations as an “historic and prophetic moment” in the life of the nation.
The statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) was one of many from Church groups supporting the apology delivered by Mr Rudd in Parliament House on Wednesday, February 13.
ACBC president Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide said that in welcoming the apology the bishops recalled their own statement issued in 1998.
In that statement, the Church sought forgiveness from “the victims of the policy that broke up indigenous families, for any part the Church paid in causing them harm and suffering”.
“Australia is a stronger nation today for having had the humility to say we are sorry that past policies were unjust and wrong, even when they were carried out with good intentions according to the prevailing attitudes of the era,” Archbishop Wilson said.
Catholic Social Services Australia executive director Frank Quinlan said Mr Rudd’s apology should be used as “a rallying point for our future efforts to achieve equality”.
Caritas Australia supports 19 indigenous project across Australia in areas including health, advocacy, education, community support, art and culture.
The organisation’s chief executive officer Frank de Groot welcomed the “significant step of the Australian Government in making the apology such crucial business”.
The leadership team of the Oceania province of the Christian Brothers had gathered in prayer and reflection to acknowledge the significance of the apology, director Br Bob Wallace said.
The NCCA’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC) executive secretary Graeme Mundine said the Stolen Generations held a special place in the hearts of many of the faithful.
“This apology has created an atmosphere of hope and forgiveness that, at more than any other time in Australia’s history, allows for the possibility of real advancement along the journey to reconciliation,” Mr Mundine said.