New Beginning for PNG Catholic Church
- By Philip Gibbs svd
The closing conference of the General Assembly of the Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea was held on 10th July, 2004, at Vunapope, with a celebration attended by thousands of people from all over the nation. The Prime Minister, Michael Somare along with several members of parliament were present for the final mass at Rakunai, near Rabaul - the birthplace of catechist-martyr Blessed Peter to Rot.
The weeklong event was the culmination of deliberations on relevant topics at local, diocesan and national levels over a period of 18 months. Reflecting on letter Novo Millennio Ineunte and Ecclesia in Oceania, the 150 delegates headed by the bishops represented the 19 dioceses outlined a national Vision and Mission for the church in Papua New Guinea. The Pastoral Priorities touched critically on issues related to social, moral and spiritual aspects of Papua New Guinea society, and the changes which the church needs to face in order to come up with plans for the direction of the church in the new millennium.
The delegates included representatives from women and youth groups. Observers from the Evangelical Lutheran and Anglican Churches were also present. Present also were prominent Catholic national leaders.
Soil - that holds great symbolic value for the Melanesian - was brought by the representatives and mixed in a large container. A large cross was placed in the mixed soil and it remained the symbol right throughout the conference. At the end of the week, delegates from each diocese received a potted plant growing in that same soil, to be taken back to every corner of the nation.
Socio-political realities were highlighted - among them the political games in Waigani, corruption, the future of young people, health services, the AIDS crisis, the lack of political interest and leadership. Statements voicing out the suffering of the people were released.
In a Pastoral Letter published at the end of their Conference, the bishops highlighted the National Vision and National Mission for Papua New Guinea.
Called by the Father, sent by Jesus, and moved by the Holy Spirit, we strive to promote God's kingdom
a.. by witnessing the Good News; b.. by fostering growth in holiness for all; c.. and by encouraging fuller participation in church and society so as to transform the world through the love of Christ.
The National Priorities for the Catholic Church in PNG are as follows:
a.. Catholic Family life
c.. Evangelisation and Catechesis
d.. Training and formation
e.. Justice, peace and the integrity of creation f.. A healthy society, confronting the AIDS crisis, and education
Unity within the Church has been stressed.
"Let new life spring forth from the earth as we mix the ground of every diocese with that of our own places. Let the Kingdom of God grow out of this land to the praise and glory of God."