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Australian Bishops' Statement of Repentence

At the start of Lent in this Year of Jubilee, the International Theological Commission of the Church released the document "Memory and Reconciliation", with the blessing of Pope John Paul II. This document sets out to apologise for those things that the Church has done wrong over the past 1000 years. It considers issues such as the Inquisition, the Crusades, the violence often associated with evangelisation, and the Catholic Church's treatment of Jews. The Vatican also encouraged local bishops' conferences to release their own particular statements of apology. Printed here is the statement of the Australian bishops, which serves as a companion to the Vatican document.

Statement of Repentance to mark the 2000th Anniversary of the Birth of Jesus Christ Released by Cardinal Edward Clancy on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference 7 March 2000

Since the Church is made up of human beings, it is always vulnerable to sin and error. While the Jubilee Year is one of gratitude, rejoicing and hope, it is also an occasion to examine our conscience and ask forgiveness for past failings.

Those in the Church with the greatest authority bear the greatest responsibility but all members of the Church have reason to repent and ask forgiveness.

In uniting ourselves with Pope John Paul's statement of repentance on behalf of the Universal Church, we, the Catholic Bishops of Australia speak in particular for the Local Church.

In General:
We have failed to live and reflect the Gospel as we should. We have often failed to make ourselves known as Christ's disciples by our love for one another, and we have given scandal to believer and unbeliever alike.

In Particular:
As Church we have been too inward looking, too exclusively concerned for ourselves and our membership and too little committed to the mission Christ gave us to reach out to the whole world.

While we must never refrain from teaching the truth of Jesus Christ, no matter how challenging it may be, we have often been wanting in compassion and sensitivity. In the past, bitter sectarian divisions harmed the cause of religion in this country. We often displayed arrogance and lack of charity towards other Christian traditions and other faiths.

Our efforts to assist indigenous Australians have often been misguided and have led to unintended but harmful long term consequences.

When confronted with sexual abuse, and abuse of authority generally, we did not always respond appropriately, and many people suffered serious harm.

In communicating the Church's teaching on marriage and sexuality, we have too often lacked compassion and understanding.

The Church has not been sufficiently alert to the needs of particular groups, such as women, youth and migrants.

For our faults and failings, for the hurt and scandal that they have caused both to groups and individuals, we profess sincere and profound regret in this Year of Jubilee and ask for forgiveness.

We hope to enter the new millennium with a greater sense of humble service. With hope and trust in God, we shall endeavour to be more authentic witnesses to the presence of Jesus Christ in the world.

For this intention we invite the prayers of all members of the Church, and of all people of good will.