The archbishop was referring to the prime minister's failure to apologize on behalf of the government to the so-called "stolen generation" of Aboriginal children who over several decades in the 20th century were forcibly removed by government officials from their families. The prime minister has declared that present-day Australians should not be held responsible for the wrongs of the past.
After a media furor, Archbishop-elect Peter Jensen claimed he had been misunderstood when he told a press conference immediately following his election that Prime Minister Howard was wrong in his steadfast refusal to issue the apology.
Jensen said at the press conference on June 6: "I think his [Howard's] view is too individualistic and there should be a recognition of the Christian understanding which is that we belong together." Asked by journalists whether he thought the prime minister was out of step with the community, Dr Jensen said: "It doesn't worry me if Mr. Howard's out of step with the community. The question is: 'Is he out of step with God?' We've got to point him to Jesus in the same way we point all our communities to Jesus."
In the days after Jensen's press conference, Howard attacked him for presuming to know the views of "the Almighty."
Other church leaders supported Prime Minister Howard. The recently-appointed Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, who, like Jensen, is seen as a doctrinal conservative, said that Australia was fortunate to have Howard, and the leader of the federal opposition, Kim Beazley, as leaders who were "exemplary, good men."
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