Pope lauds apology to Aborigines

July 17, 2008 at 1:18 AM

SYDNEY, July 17 (UPI) -- Pope Benedict XVI Thursday called the Australian government courageous for apologizing for past injustices suffered by the nation's indigenous peoples.

The leader of the world's Roman Catholics, who is in Australia for the World Youth Day celebration, said the "courageous decision" by the government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to apologize would help bring indigenous and non-indigenous Australians closer together, The Australian reported.

"This example of reconciliation offers hope to peoples all over the world who long to see their rights affirmed and their contributions to society acknowledged and promoted," Benedict said.

The pope made the comments at Sydney's Government House during the first official engagement of his visit. He was greeted by about 200 onlookers.

The pontiff also complimented Australia for its "serious commitment" to protect the environment.

In welcoming the pope, Rudd called him "the voice of hope at a time ... when hope is most needed."

Meanwhile, the pope also sent a message to a gathering of Anglican bishops, urging them to avoid schism, The Times Online reported. About a quarter of the Anglican Church's bishops are boycotting the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury because of disagreements over the ordination of gay clergy.

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