US Catholic bishops apologize to Native Americans for abuse

US Catholic bishops apologize to Native Americans for abuse

Catholic bishops in the United States apologized to Native Americans on Friday for the church’s role in creating trauma in their communities, while also adopting new guidelines for serving indigenous Catholics. The new policies, approved by the US national bishops’ conference, call for church leaders to hold sessions to hear from local native leaders, incorporate tribal customs into sacraments and improve Native Americans’ access to Catholic universities and other educational opportunities. The document describes some of the abuses suffered by Native Americans at the hands of the church, including the operation of more than 80 government-sponsored boarding schools, part of a decades-long plan to force assimilation into the religion. Three schools created by the federal government in the 19th century lasted 150 years, during which Native children were removed from their homes, banned from speaking their own languages ​​and given new English names. A government investigation into the system found widespread physical, sexual and emotional abuse and hundreds of deaths. “The Church recognizes that it has played a role in the trauma experienced by Native children,” the document says, adding that “these tragedies” have led to addiction, domestic abuse, abandonment and neglect that have damaged families. Several new policies are aimed at addressing the gulf that some Native Americans believe separates their tribal origins and their Catholic identity, the document says. “For Native Catholics who feel this tension, we as Catholic bishops in the United States reassure you that you do not have to be one or the other. You are both. Your cultural embodiment of the faith is a gift to the Church,” the document says. More than 340 U.S. parishes serve primarily Native congregations out of a total of more than 16,000, and about 20% of all Native people consider themselves Catholic, according to the bishops’ conference.

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