Retired Bishop Francis A. Quinn used a mass at the Church of St. Raphael on Dec. 15, as an opportunity to apologize to the Miwok Indians for the church's mistreatment two centuries ago. Miwok Indians once occupied the lands from the Golden Gate to north of Bodega Bay.
The mass was held to commemorate the 190th anniversary of the founding of Mission San Rafael Arcangel. The Indians helped Spanish priests build and maintain the mission in 1817.
But the bishop conceded they were repaid by church authorities with the destruction of their own spiritual practices and cruel punishment for any disobedience.
Greg Sarris, head of the Miwok tribal council, officially called the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, called Quinn's remarks historic.
"I have not heard of this happening anywhere else in this country," he said.
Many Indians whose ancestors were converted to Catholicism are still smarting from the church's past mistreatment and appreciated the gesture, Sarris said.
After the mass, he spoke to other attendees gathered in the church school's gymnasium.
"With the permission of my people, I accept your apology" Sarris told the bishop.
Teri Brunner, curator of the mission museum, said, "It was magical to have priests and Miwoks together again, in a peaceful setting, celebrating and honoring one another."
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