We stand this evening on the sacred traditional lands of the Ohlone Nation. I want to begin by thanking our Ohlone brothers and sisters for welcoming us to their homeland.
I am speaking to you this evening as chairman of the task force on Native American Historic Concerns of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops. The purpose of this task force is to work with our California Native communities so that they may tell their true histories and the true history of the missions and to use our influence to assure that these true histories will be heard.
In the Americas, in the United States and in Canada, in North and South America, every inch of this land belonged to your ancestors, to Native Americans. This land was your inheritance and it was taken away from you. We are aware of this throughout the United States, but especially here in California, where our past history is more immediate to our awareness and where it was members of the Church who were the first foreigners to invade the land.
As a bishop of California I want to ask your forgiveness, the forgiveness of all Native Americans but especially of California Native Americans, for the failures of the Church and whatever the Church, past and present, has done, either directly or indirectly, to participate in, cooperate with, or indifferently ignore the oppression, the enslavement, and the genocide, yes genocide, of Native Americans. I ask your forgiveness.
Here in California, in the last few years, the bishops have become more and more aware of the history and the needs of our Native American communities and we are resolved to see that the truth is told and our care for Native Americans improved.
I also want to express gratitude for those representatives and members of the Church, few though they may have been, who stood up for, defended and supported Native Americans.
Finally, I want to join Bishop Soto, the bishop of Sacramento and president of our state conference, in welcoming you to California for these next few days and in expressing our gratitude to you for welcoming us to participate with you in the Tekakwitha Conference. Thank you most sincerely.