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Pope Sends First E-Mail

In an unprecedented event for the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II went online on Thursday to electronically transfer a papal document to the world directly over the Internet.

During a brief ceremony in the Vatican's Clementine Hall, he signed and transmitted the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Oceania".

In it, the pope apologized to victims of sexual abuse by priests and other clergy and expressed the church's regret for injustices committed by missionaries working with Oceania's native peoples.

The papal document resulted from the synod for Oceania.

Bishops in Oceania, which includes Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific islands, waited for three years for the pope to come to relay his conclusions following a gathering of their representatives at the Vatican in 1998.

In past years, the pope traveled to distant continents to deliver a special message to his bishops. He made a pilgrimage to India to deliver his message to Asian bishops and one to South Africa for his message to African bishops.

But this time, the frail 81-year-old decided to stay home and send a message to Oceania via the Internet in English and French. Screens set up around the hall showed the emails being sent and received.

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