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What would reconciliation in the Church look like?

  • 08 July 2021
On Sunday 4 July, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday marked the start of NAIDOC week. This year the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) have adopted the NAIDOC theme for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday, Heal Country, looking at what reconciliation in the Church might look like. When exploring this notion, NATSICC is continuing to take steps towards First Nations people and culture finding a home in and being celebrated within the Church.

The question of what reconciliation in the Church looks like is one that many countries have had to consider in light of past injustices related to Church-supported colonisation. The first part to healing involves the relationship between First Australians and the Church. The Church needs to continue coming to grips with its own mistakes in this area: its involvement in the Stolen Generations, its running of missions in which children were taken from their parents, its involvement in missionary outreach work that did not adequately respect First Nations peoples and its ongoing Eurocentric worldview.

Healing this relationship is critical for the health of the Church in this country, the health of the land itself and the health of its First Peoples.

In his 2001 apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania, Pope John Paul II recognised that the relationship of the Church to the Aboriginal peoples and the Torres Strait Islander peoples remains vital but that it is also difficult because of past and present injustices and cultural differences. Pope John Paul II also recognised that the Church should more thoroughly study Indigenous cultures and communicate the faith in a legitimate way appropriate to Indigenous cultures. Pope John Paul II went on to state that the Church will support the cause of all Indigenous peoples who seek a just and equitable recognition of their identity and their rights.

He also acknowledged, ‘Whenever the truth has been suppressed by governments and their agencies or even by Christian communities, the wrongs done to the indigenous peoples need to be honestly acknowledged… The past cannot be undone, but honest recognition of past injustices can lead to measures and attitudes which will help to rectify the damaging effects for both the Indigenous community and the wider society. The Church expresses deep regret and asks forgiveness where her children have been or still are party to these wrongs. Aware of the shameful injustices done to First Peoples in Oceania, the Synod Fathers apologised