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US Catholic bishops apologize for abuse of Native Americans

US Catholic bishops apologize for abuse of Native Americans

Catholic bishops in the United States apologized to Native Americans on Friday for the church’s role in causing trauma in their communities, while also adopting new guidelines for ministering to Native Catholics. The new policies, approved by the U.S. National Conference of Bishops, call on church leaders to hear from local Native leaders, incorporate tribal customs into the sacraments, and improve Native Americans’ access to Catholic universities and other educational opportunities. The document details some of the abuses Native Americans suffered at the hands of the Church, including the operation of more than 80 government-sponsored boarding schools that were part of a decades-long program of forced religious assimilation. Three schools created by the federal government in the 19th century lasted 150 years, during which Native children were removed from their homes, forbidden to speak their native 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 this plays a role in the trauma experienced by indigenous children,” the document says, adding that “these tragedies” have led to addiction, domestic abuse, abandonment and neglect, which harm families. The document says many of the new policies are aimed at addressing the gulf that separates some Native Americans from their tribal origins and their Catholic identities. “To native Catholics who feel this tension, we Catholic bishops in the United States assure you that you don’t have to be one. You are both. Your cultural faith is a gift to the Church.” The document says. More than 340 of the more than 16,000 American parishes in the U.S. Parishes serve predominantly indigenous congregations, and about 20% of all indigenous people consider themselves Catholic, according to the Bishops’ Conference.

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