Pope praises Australia for apologizing to Aborigines for past wrongs

Pope Benedict XVI praised the Australian government Thursday for its "courageous" apology to the country's indigenous Aborigines for past injustices, saying it offered hope to all the world's disadvantaged peoples. The remarks came as the pope began a busy day of public appearances for the Roman Catholic church's youth festival, which has drawn more than 200,000 pilgrims to Sydney from across the world. At an official welcoming ceremony, Benedict said Australia's original inhabitants were an essential part of the country's cultural landscape, and cited their plight since the first British convict settlers arrived 220 years ago. "Thanks to the Australian government's courageous decision to acknowledge the injustices committed against the indigenous peoples in the past, concrete steps are now being taken to achieve reconciliation based on mutual respect," Benedict said.