News

Best students die of poverty

The death of a third Divine Word University student in as many months yesterday in Madang is likely to send again shockwaves around the country; this time for the conditions of late Terence Wafanu from Green River District in Sandaun province.

The Year Two Rural Health student is reported to have formally withdrawn from school in April due to no payment of school fees. Friends, however, revealed at the improvised hauscry in campus last night that his parents are mere subsistence farmers and Terence was the first young person from their extremely remote area to reach a university level of education.

Causes of death have still to be officially determined with a TB bout as the primary suspect. But Terence never found his way back to the impoverished Vanimo forests after leaving school a couple of months ago. He hung around with Church groups in Morobe province and Madang until he was admitted at Modilon General Hospital last week complaining of fatigue and breathing problems.

Comments in Madang are bitter: millionaire government and opposition leaders are locked in a power struggle in Waigani, while the future of the country dies of poverty and neglect. And this for a few thousand Kina of school fees Vanimo politicians were not interested and not willing to contribute. (Giorgio Licini – Catholic Reporter PNG)

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Editorials

Dawn of the new PNG

By Fr Giorgio Licini – Catholic Reporter PNG

We leave it up to the courts to determine if presumed legal services by Paul Paraka Lawyers were really met with illegal payments by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and others. We also stay out of the political wrangling that inevitably accompanies inquiries into government officials and politicians. Neither, we do care much about political careers that may end or blossom according to court rulings.

We just note the fact that the soul searching exercise the country is undergoing these days reveals a deep yearning for a new beginning. Since independence Papua New Guinea has been marred in poor governance and corruption. Now people had enough.

They had enough of dubious payments; uncompleted projects; political consent and votes captured every five years with unfulfilled promises.

O’Neill and colleagues always repeat the same refrain: You will judge us at election in 2017. But what if by then the country is financially, socially and morally bankrupt. Outgoing ministers and Members of Parliament are not going to pay any price for it, while common people will suffer.

There is something missing in a democracy when Constitutional changes become too easy and Parliamentary opposition almost nil. Thank God the judiciary appears to be vibrant and independent in PNG. But still government and politicians should not blame the media when they prove to be the last bulwark of democracy. Who else is going to expose bad or wrong decisions when Parliament is an accomplice and the judiciary cannot acquire necessary proof?

The dream for a clean and honest running of the public affairs is palpable at the grassroots. There is a third post-independence generation of Papua New Guineans fast emerging after the Somares and the O’Neills. They want a more mature democratic process and a totally transparent management of public wealth and funds. They are preparing for it. Please, don’t stand on their way!

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Messages

Madang police fight domestic sexual violence

The launching, dedication and blessing of a “Family and Sexual Violence Centre” was done in the presence of numerous local dignitaries including the Governor of Madang, Hon Jim Kas on Saturday, 27 June 2014 at the Yomba police station. It is one of the first such police units in Papua New Guinea. Archbishop Stephen Reichert was invited to deliver the keynote address and this is what he had to say on the occasion:

By Archbishop Stephen Reichert OFM Cap

Family and Sexual violence has become an enormous concern in Papua New Guinea and our Province is not exempt from this serious problem. The more focused we as a community are about this problem, the more we realize just how huge, widespread and serious the problem is.

In the past, domestic violence, mostly violence against women and children and sexual violence has for the most part been kept hidden of swept under the floor mat. No one wants to get involved . “Em i no bisnis bilong mi. Wari bilong ol. Nogut em i kik bek long mi,” we sometimes say.

So, domestic violence and especially sexual violence, has been handled in what some would describe as the “traditional way”. More violence was sometimes the response, pay back, or, even more often these days, payment of compensation, sometimes for the most horrendous of crimes, the rape of children, even babies, brutal and repeated beatings of wives and children and other such violence.

We know that payback simply causes the circle of violence to continue and more people suffer from violence. Compensation might have satisfied some people, but it does not punish perpetrators of violence in a meaningful way nor provide justice for the victims of violence. Neither of these traditional methods of dealing with violence are a deterrent to stop further domestic violence and sexual violence crimes.

Here’s another problem. The public believes that we cannot get assistance from the police and the courts, nor from any other source, so what is the point of reporting these crimes? Why should we get involved?

Today we have gathered to witness the launching and establishment of a Family and Sexual Violence Unit in the Madang Province, with its office here at Yomba Police Headquarters. Throughout PNG this initiative is a project of the Royal PNG Constabulary. In Madang we thank Provincial Police Commander Chief Superintendent Sylvester Kalaut and his team for leadership in moving this initiative forward, along with the great support given by the Australian High Commission through the PNG Law and justice Partnership Program. Many other individuals and groups have joined hands to stop family and sexual violence too. We are all ready to work together so that this initiative bears fruit. No more family violence! No more sexual violence crimes! No more violence against women! No more violence against children! Let’s work together to stop violence of all kinds!

As reported in the media, a two-day workshop about family and sexual violence was held during the past two days. The purpose of the training was to look at police attitudes toward issues concerning family and sexual violence and to move away from the entrenched attitude of so-called “civil” and “family matters” which we need to change. “Many people who come to us feel ashamed and traumatized and don’t want to pursue their case. We need to do our bit to make this country free from violence.” Chief Superintendent Kalaut is quoted as saying.

It is extremely difficult in cases of family and sexual violence for victims of these crimes to find a way from the rural villages and towns into the courtroom where justice is found. There are many obstacles. However, the police stand at the door of the courtroom and can open it for victims by giving awareness, gaining the trust of the people, responding to people in need of assistance, investigating reported crimes quickly and offering compassionate support to victims of violence. That is the task of the Family and Sexual Violence Unit. It is very important that this unit, and the police in general, take strong action in every case to immediately investigate and prosecute all crimes related to Family and Sexual violence that come to their attention. We, the public, will then see and become confident that a new day has dawned in this matter. And we, the families and communities of the Madang Province must give whole-hearted, active support and cooperation to this effort to stop family and sexual violence.

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Messages

The Church in Europe seen from Oceania

42nd Annual Meeting of the Secretary Generals of the

Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Europe

Strasbourg, 19-22 June 2014

 THE CHURCH IN EUROPE AS SEEN BY OTHER REGIONS OF THE WORLD

A ‘sending Church’ has become a ‘receiving Church’

By Fr. Victor Roche SVD

Secretary General

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands (CBC)

Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO)

Dear Secretaries General of Bishops Conferences of the Countries of Europe,

It is an honour to be invited to such a meeting of the Secretaries General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Europe. I am asked to present a paper about the Church in Europe as seen by other regions of the world. It is good that we reflect together.

My personal background

I was baptized by a French MEP priest and given a French name ‘Roche’. I had a German Rector in the SVD Seminary; had an Irish Novice Master; had many European Lecturers in Philosophy and Theology. A Hungarian priest introduced me to the Mission life in Papua New Guinea and served for the past 32 years with missionaries who are from Europe.

I come from Tamil Nadu from India where family values are of great importance. I work in Papua New Guinea where Community Values are respected.

Europe is culturally very rich

Europe can boast of a culture which is thousands of years old. Many of these cultural traditions have gone with migrants to North and South America, Canada, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand etc.

Europe’s contribution in the field of Sciences

Europe’s contribution in the field of Education, Physics, Mathematics have influenced the rest of the world. Great inventions of Electricity, Phone, Computers etc. have changed the lives of the people.

Europe’s Contribution in the field of Philosophy, Psychology and Sociology

Europe has contributed greatly in the field of Philosophical thinking, Psychology and Sociology. It has also contributed to the rest of the world in the field of Political systems: Democracy, Capitalism, Communism etc.

Europe’s Contribution to Religion

Great Religions of the world have originated from the East: Judaism, Islam and Christianity from the Middle East; Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism from the Indian Subcontinent; Taoism and Shintoism from China.

Christianity which originated from Bethlehem, Galilee and Palestine spread very fast in Europe. Many monasteries were places of rich spiritual traditions. Orders like Benedictines, Cistercians, Franciscans, Carmelites etc. were flourishing throughout Europe. Many men and women religious orders such us Dominicans, Franciscans, Capuchins, Jesuits, Salesians, Sacred Heart, Divine Word sent missionaries to the rest of the world.

Christianity was an official religion of some countries until the recent past. France was the cradle of the Catholic Church until the Cultural Revolution. Parish Churches and Catholic Schools were in the centre of a ‘village’. A parish priest, respected as a spiritual leader, was also a community leader who had a ‘say’ in every aspect of life of the people of his parish. Spiritual, Cultural and Social celebrations were done within the parish community.

Those were the good old days! What a change we can see now! What are the causes?

In my opinion, the following are the causes:

The Church in Europe is influenced by the present culture of the world

Europe is characterised by individualism: ‘I’ and ‘my interests’ are very important. In the name of human rights of the individual, the family and community values are sacrificed.

Europe is characterised by ‘money’ and ‘economy’: greed for money has destroyed families, financial institutions and even countries. Political parties which promise a good economy are elected to the government.

Europe is characterised by the decadence of family values: 60% of the marriages in Europe end in divorce. Many prefer to live as ‘partners’ where there is no commitment to marriage or children. There are gay and lesbian marriages. Some people would prefer to live alone rather than get married. Family values are really under threat!

The Church in Europe is tired

The church in Europe is tired of living a life of faith for so many centuries.It was a hectic life; full of structures and demands. The West wants a break. It wants a break from its faith in God and the Church. It wants to be free from all the influences of the Church and its structures.

Church in Europe in recovering from its wounds

The Church is recovering from the wounds of scandals of abuse of children; abuse of power and money.

Church in Europe is not handing down its faith to its children

For generations, the Christian faith was handed down from parents to children. The families were the places where the parents taught the children how to pray and how to grow in faith. As family values have dwindled, faith in God and in the Church have dwindled too!

A ‘sending Church’ has become a ‘receiving Church’

The church in Europe had sent many missionaries to the rest of the world. People had large families and each family considered it a blessing to have at least one priest or a sister or a brother in the family. Better still, if one of them could be sent as a missionary to the far ends of the earth. But now this sending Church has become a receiving Church. Many parishes in Europe have parish priests who are from Asia and Africa. The Churches in those countries were receiving missionaries from Europe but now are sending missionaries to Europe.

I do not intend to give suggestions. But it is good to reflect also on some of the positive aspects.

People who come to church are strong in their faith

Although there are empty churches in Europe, the people who come to Church want to be there. They have strong convictions about their relationship with God. These people have to be shepherded well.

 

There is a small but steady increase in vocations

Many congregations have closed their houses in the recent past. Vocations had gone down. Very few Missionaries are sent to other parts of the world. But there is a small but steady increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life in some congregations. More funds and efforts have to be directed to formation houses. There is a hope!

Francis Effect

Many people have lost faith in the Church. But Pope Francis has brought hope to the Catholic Church and to Christianity. His pastoral letter, “The Joy of the Gospel” is a call to return to God and to His church. In humility, the Church in Europe has to heed to his call and to a relationship with Jesus.

The Church in Europe is generous

The Church in Europe has always been very generous in helping developing countries through agencies such as Missio, Church in Need, Miva and many more. When there are natural disasters or man-made calamities, such international agencies are there to help. The poor and needy are helped.

Conclusion

I believe, the Church in Europe will find its vocation again. The Church in Europe will rise again. Its children will start to believe in their God and the Church. The Church is built on a rock. I believe in Jesus’ words: “I am with you till the end of the world” (Mathew 28: 20).

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Obituary

The apostle of Goilala students passes

Bro Brendan Crowe FSC

(17 August 1942 – 10 June 2014)

By Fr Roger Purcell MSC

Bro Brendan Crowe (de La Salle) died on 10th June in Melbourne, Australia. He spent many years in Papua New Guinea and leaves behind a great legacy of work, achievements and most importantly, friends. One of his confreres said, “his loyalty, commitment, generosity, set purpose and dare we say devotion, could well be an allegory for his life both professional and religious.” He was a true Aussie who enjoyed his football (North Melbourne), a beer with friends and stories. He was a religious of dedication and a man with a vision of what could be done, and great energy and determination to get it done.

He came first in 1972 to Maino Hana High School in Bereina Diocese becoming involved in SSCEP (Secondary Schools Community Extension Programme) bringing that dedication and commitment to all he did. When I first knew him he was at Tapini High School, which he was instrumental in establishing. His many trips on the Louis Mona Highway (Tapini Highway) were the stuff of legends and the mechanics at PNG Motors often worked overtime on his Mazda to keep it on the road.

Previously the Goilala students used to go to Maino Hana High School, and Brendan would often walk back with them in the Christmas holidays and visit the villages; hence his great interest and commitment to Goilala. On these walks he said that in crossing the high passes he always put himself at the end of the line and did not allow anyone to stop in the cold and mist of the pass, but to go further down, find shelter and light a fire to warm up. Many have died of cold in those passes.

He spent years in Goilala establishing many small community schools, finding teachers, getting them to the schools and chasing them through the settlements in Port Moresby to ensure they were in their schools. He was so well known he could go freely into any settlement in the city to find teachers, students and parents. He pestered Members and Public Servants to get funds for the schools, and turned to the Embassies to establish a radio system in the schools.

From the Tapini Canteen the brothers ran a system of supply to the remote teachers. They would pay their salary into the canteen account, send their orders by radio and the Brothers would send their goods by plane and debit their accounts. Brendan’s policy was that if the teacher was in the school the kids were being taught. He patrolled regularly to these schools in very difficult terrain, found materials to build and organized Rotary Australia to came and build them, often in very remote location. Following many others before him, he was a real apostle to the Goilala bringing the benefits of education to many remote villages.

With these schools feeding the High School and his care for the teachers the aggregate mark at Tapini High School climbed steadily to be one of the best in the nation.

Later when his health declined he moved to Trinity Teachers College in Mt. Hagen with a better climate. Here he accepted to be the primary writer of the PNG Catechism, working closely with the Catechism Committee under the Liturgical Catechetical Institute (LCI). Much of his work was really very good requiring a lot of study and thought; there were days too when it was not so good and the Committee had to rework the chapters or start again.

In all of these works, over many years, he has contributed greatly to the development of the nation and the church leaving behind many great friends, endless memories and stories and a fine legacy of achievement.Image

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News

Churches facilitate PNG development

Fr Giorgio Licini – Catholic Reporter PNG

The governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia recently released data on the third phase (2010-2014) of the Incentive Fund partnership program. It started in the year 2000 and has so far successfully funded 47 “well performing organizations” for 59 projects across 17 PNG provinces. The total investment was of AUD 170 million (PGK 405 million). The projects funded during the past four years were twenty, of which thirteen were in Education and seven in Health at the cost of AUD 60 million (PGK 131 million). It is worth noticing that the Churches were the partners of fifteen of the projects. The remaining five projects also went to health and education through government departments.

Social inclusion, gender equality and child protection were the underlying values the beneficiary institutions and people involved were trained to understand, uphold and promote. According to official statements the response and outcome were overwhelmingly positive: “Individuals have made remarkable changes to their lives: contractors have become aware of better ways of working; hospital staff have changed their approach to survivors of domestic violence, child protection and disability; secondary schools have identified extra ways to support and encourage leadership and community responsibility in their students; health clinics have focused on service to children and women, and have recognized the needs of men in their support services.”

About one third of the projects were implemented in remote areas in the provinces of Milne Bay, Madang, Central and Simbu while the others went to the upgrading of Secondary Schools, Universities and Hospitals from Alotau, to Port Moresby, Madang, Mount Hagen, Vanimo and Rabaul.

In some instances the project included VSAT Internet connection, such as the case of Santa Maria High School in the remote Goodenough Island of Milne Bay province, thus effectively ending isolation and providing students with access to a wealth of online academic resources.

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Pastoral Letters

Towards An Evangelized and Evangelizing Community of Families

Pastoral Letter

Bishop Rolando C. Santos, C.M.

Alotau-31 May 2014

My dear brother priests, sisters, and all the faithful of the diocese of Alotau,

The grace and peace of the Risen Christ be with you all!

We have just celebrated the Year of Faith – a time to give thanks to God for the supreme gift of our Christian faith and a time to challenge ourselves to carry on the urgent mission of transmitting the Gospel in a new way that reaches out esp. to those who have drifted away or live in the fringes of the Church. In the opening statement of his recent apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis says that “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus (E.G.,1) This encounter is the fruit of evangelization. He then tells us that “an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!” (EG, 10) because preaching the Gospel should always be a “delightful and comforting joy” for all those who carry it out.

Evangelizing the Family. During the Second General Assembly of the Catholic Church in Madang (Nov 5-11, 2013) and the recent Annual General Meeting of the Catholic Bishops Conference in Port Moresby, the bishops resolved to make “Evangelization in and through Families” the theme for this year. This is in line with the solicitude that Pope Francis has for the family of today as he gathers bishops from all over the world for an extraordinary synod on the Family this coming October. In solidarity with the Holy Father, let us make the family the focus of our evangelization and catechesis in the diocese this year. Evangelization is the most valuable service we can give to families. We evangelize the family so that it may become a believing and evangelizing community (FC 51). It is my hope that we do not leave a single family unevangelized. Through our renewed commitment to the work of evangelization, may every single family experience the joy of the Gospel and become a light of Christ to others.

In our diocese, we see a significant number of people who suffer from broken homes and failed marriages. There are women and innocent children who become victims of violence and abuse right inside their own homes. The home is becoming a dangerous place to live in when it should be a place of love, comfort, security and joy. Oh, how we dream of a home where people are treated with respect and grow into healthy persons as children of God. This can only come about when people accept and believe in the Gospel and live it. Jesus is at the heart of the Gospel. He is God’s message of love for the world, the One who came that we may have life and have it more abundantly.

A believing and evangelizing family. In the Apostolic Letter, Familiaris Consortio, John Paul II, mentions four general tasks of the family. 1) Forming a community of persons where love binds each and every member of the family together. 2) Serving life which begins at conception in the womb and ends at the tomb. Begetting children, caring for them and educating them are the primary ways whereby couples serve life. 3) Participating in the development of society. “The family (is) the first school of the social virtues that are the animating principle of the existence and development of society itself” (FC 42). 4) Sharing in the life and mission of the Church. The family is called to build up the Kingdom of God in history. As a believing and evangelizing community in dialogue with God, the family is at the service of man (FC 52). The family can only do this if it is also a praying family. The family that prays together, stays together. Family prayer, esp. the rosary, should hold a special place in every Christian home. The family is called to be a domestic Church where the Word of God is read, shared, explained and lived, and which worships God together in the celebration of the sacraments, esp. the Eucharist. Prayer is the life blood of the family. As the Lord said, “without Me, you can do nothing.”

Mixed Marriages. One of the common concerns raised by parishioners in our diocese is marriage with non-Catholics. Sometimes the non-Catholic party is not open to marriage in the Catholic Church and this deprives the Catholic party of Holy Communion. Other times we just lose our member to other churches. We need to instruct well our faithful and encourage them to marry Catholics like themselves or non-Catholics who would respect their Catholic belief. Catholics should do the same for their non-Catholic partner. According to Church law, mixed marriages are not to be done without the express permission of the local bishop. The bishop can permit this only if there is a just and reasonable cause. The Catholic party has to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith. He or she has to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power for the children to be baptised and brought up in the Catholic Church. The other party should be informed of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party. Before receiving the sacrament of marriage, both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage. (Can. 1124-1125). Both parties should knowingly and freely vow to love each other faithfully to the end of their lives and care for their children as Christ has loved us.

Failed marriages. There are no perfect husbands, no perfect couples, no perfect marriages and no perfect families. Every person brings into this world his/her own share of weakness and sinfulness. This is the reason why many marriages fail. This, however, should not discourage couples nor make them lose faith in the institution of marriage. Conflicts in marriage naturally arise. Our Christian faith gives us the power and the strength to deal with these and to grow from the experience. We are called to forgive each other and grow in understanding, compassion and love for one another. Marriages don’t have to fail in spite of the many difficulties and hardships involved. What is needed is prayer and a lot of patience, gentleness, humility, and the faith to believe that God loves us unconditionally in spite of our many weaknesses. To love is to learn to be patient, to suffer in love and to forgive. With the grace of God, we are capable of doing this if we unite our sufferings with Jesus who suffered for love of us. For this reason, we all have need of grace and redemption. We need Christ to help us stay in love. Just like the couple at the wedding feast of Cana, couples need to invite Christ into their married life. Let them heed the voice of Mary who directs us to her Son: “do whatever he tells you”. When we obey the Lord, we are more capable of accepting the crosses and trials of life and turn these into blessings which bring joy and gladness to those who obey. We can do this if we pray. Those in failed marriages should never stop from praying and going to church. Let us heed the voice of the Good Shepherd who says: “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavily burdened and I will give you rest.”

  1. It is sad to know that there are many couples who live together without the benefit of a formal marriage. They deprive themselves of what is essential for every love relationship to endure: commitment. To cohabit without getting married makes partners unsure and insecure with each other. It also places the future of their children in an uncertain situation. Christian marriage is a sacred act of total self-donation, where couples give themselves to each other completely, without reservation, in total fidelity to each other to the end of their lives. They do so while accepting the responsibility to be open to life, to the begetting and rearing of children according to the plan of God. Mere cohabitation places in danger the security and dignity of each partner, as well as the welfare of children who come out from this union. How many couples enter into such unions without much thought and reflection? How many deprive themselves of the blessings and graces of the sacrament to assist them in the many challenges and trials of married life? Do not make the mistake of cohabiting with a partner when you can have something better and more secure. Get your partner to get married with you. His response will prove to you whether he truly loves you. Do not be afraid of a life-time commitment. The only kind of love that is worthy of such a name is love that is firm and lasting.

Adultery. There is no sexual act in the Gospels more clearly defined as sinful and immoral as the sin of adultery. “You have learnt how it was said: “You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt. 5:27-28). Adultery clearly violates the fidelity that is demanded of married couples. It is a violation of personal dignity and the respect one should have for oneself, the partner, one’s spouse and children, and most importantly, for God’s plan on marriage. How many homes have been left broken and clans divided because of the sin of adultery? How many couples have separated creating deep wounds and scars in their lives and the lives of their children? However, the sin of adultery can be forgiven. Instead of hatred and vengeance, there is need for forgiveness, healing, redemption and reconciliation which come from much prayer and penance. As Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery: Neither do I condemn you. But, go and sin no more.

Premarital chastity. A relationship which does not bear the mark of personal discipline and self-control is bound to failure. Marriage is not for beginners or teen-agers, but only for mature and responsible people. True love knows how to wait. Chastity is a virtue which helps us to control and direct our sexual passions according to the will of God. “Making love” is only for married people who have already vowed themselves to each other in a permanent commitment. This kind of love is not the product of a passionate feeling or a passing emotion. It is a decision to respect and care for the gift of one another, and the gift of new life which can ensue from such a relationship. Sexual intercourse is the highest physical expression of this love. It is only done by people who have truly committed themselves to each other in the unbreakable bond of marriage. To have intercourse without getting married is to indulge in an act which is not honest and true, but a lie.

Young people are to be educated in the ways of true, honest, mature, healthy and joyful relationships. They have to learn genuine friendship before they can enter into marriage. Young people must learn how to say NO to themselves, to things which are not yet for them. Self-control is a sign of maturity. Young people who observe premarital chastity, and think more of the good of the other rather than of themselves are more likely to be blessed with a happy and lasting marriage.

Contraceptives. These are being advertised and promoted as though they are what responsible people should always use when engaging in sexual acts. However, the Church teaches that the use of contraceptives is objectively sinful. They go against the unitive and procreative purposes of the sexual act which are to show mutual love between husband and wife, and to beget children.

The new-found freedom that contraceptives give can easily lead to promiscuity and irresponsible, selfish behaviour. The use of contraceptives is a sign of the lack of commitment to each other and openness to life. It is a denial of life and fertility which couples are called to give to each other with total generosity and trust. Contraceptives violate that unconditional love which couples are asked to give to each other. Instead of being a responsible free act, the sexual act is grounded in fear and selfish motives. If there is a serious reason for couples to space children, they should use the natural method of family planning. This has no bad side effects as it respects nature and promotes healthy relationship and self-control, respect for the woman and human life which begins at the time of conception.

Mary Stopes and abortion. It is disturbing to learn that the government of PNG has chosen to entrust the program of family planning to an organization which is well known to provide not only contraception and sterilization but also abortion. Mary Stopes International claims that the abortion they provide is part of health care, and that it is “safe, compassionate and medical”. What a heap of lies! Abortion is never safe and compassionate. It is always the killing of an innocent, unborn child, created in the image and likeness of God. Abortion has no place in health care and medical practice since all health care providers take an oath to uphold life and not death. Once conception has taken place, human life begins. This life is to be respected since it enjoys the same rights as those of any other human being: the right to life, to be respected and loved, to be born and cared for, and to grow so as to know, love and serve his Creator and be happy with Him forever in Heaven.

 

The Constitution of Papua New Guinea does not allow for abortion except in the case of a pregnancy which directly threatens the life of the mother. What the Church teaches is that the life of both mother and child is equally important. Under these difficult circumstances, what should be done is to do one’s best to save the lives of both mother and child. If in the process of saving or curing the mother, the child in the womb should die, this should not be regarded as an intended consequence. We are never justified to directly kill an innocent human being even if this were to save the life of another. Medical doctors should do their utmost to save the lives of both mother and child, and not regard one as more important than the other.

Mary Stopes and Population Control. Unfortunately, our PNG government is getting the services of Mary Stopes International to provide hormonal implants (implanon) to thousands of young women and girls of child-bearing age in this country. Implanon is used to sterilize women so they will not conceive and bear a child either temporarily or permanently . It is part of the population control program of the government which erroneously believes that the country is over populated and that this is the great obstacle to the development of this country.

PNG has only a total population of about 7.5 million. It is also one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources. It can easily feed at least 20 times its present population if only there were better planning and accountability. Unfortunately, much pressure is being put on our government by outside agencies to lower the population and what it calls “maternal mortality rate”.

If women are dying in pregnancy or child birth, this is not because of pregnancy or child-bearing itself. The human body is one of the most perfect creations of God. The Bible tells us that after God created man and the universe, he saw that everything He did was good. Pregnancy and giving birth are good in themselves. If mothers are dying, this cannot come merely from getting pregnant. What pregnant mothers need to reduce the risk of mortality are better and more health services, hospitals and health clinics. Our village women need more nurses and health care givers who will attend to pregnant women and who will also educate them on how to take care of themselves and their infants during the period of pregnancy. This is what the Catholic agency health clinic in Nimoa has done. Because of the good health services they provide with the help of Dr. Barry, there is low or no maternal mortality rate in Nimoa. On the other hand, Implants can have bad side effects on the health of the woman. They also violate their dignity and threaten the life of the unborn. The way to development is not by controlling the population through sterilization or abortion. What is needed is greater responsibility, initiative, imagination, accountability, respect for life and the family, and a deep trust in God.

Family Life Apostolate. To promote the Christian values of family life, we have to strengthen the Family Life Apostolate of the diocese. Let us do this starting this year. I have asked our diocesan FLA officer-in-charge to give seminars in all the parishes, starting in the mainland. Parish priests should make sure that the Family Life Apostolate is well organized and working in their respective parishes. The parish FLA team are to meet together regularly and give seminars to the different Christian communities (CC), the small Christian communities (SCC)and those getting married. We have to make it our special mission to evangelize and catechize other families. No one is exempted from this. The parish priest takes leadership in animating the FLA team and in directing and giving these seminars. The instruction should include an explanation of the Sacrament of Marriage, the sacred duties which couples have for each other and their children, and ways by which they can grow and nourish their married life and be of service to society and the Church at large.

Campaign for Marriage. All parishes should organize a program to instruct the faithful on the values and graces that come from receiving the sacrament of marriage. Any couple desiring to get married is to be entertained by the parish priest. He conducts the premarital interview and investigation, and arranges a suitable and workable program of premarital instructions for them together with the FLA team. Deserving couples are not to be made to wait unnecessarily for a long time before they could avail of the sacrament of Matrimony. This year I request all parishes to organize a campaign to reach out to couples who are living together without the benefit of the sacrament so that a mass wedding can be arranged for those who are deserving. No one should be unduly pressured. This should be carefully planned and all the canonical requirements for marriage properly carried out.

Child-Protection. Children are especially loved by God. Jesus said: let the little children come to me, for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven. We should always give respect and care to children who bear the image of God and whose angels constantly watch and pray for them. A child is anybody below the age of 18. Young girls and boys are especially vulnerable to physical, verbal and sexual abuse. In the manner of disciplining them, we can never use physical violence or severe punishment that harms them or degrades their dignity. Children grow up better as mature and healthy individuals when we take time to talk to them, to listen and explain things in a gentle way, rather than when we threaten or inflict them with hurting words or physical harm. Severe corporal punishment has no place in a Catholic school, much less inside the family home. Rather, we should take time to listen to children, esp. those who suffer from abuse, and provide parental guidance to those with problems and difficulties.

Those who sexually abuse minors should be brought to justice. They should be reported to the child protection officer and to the police. The sexual abuse of minors is a serious crime. It cannot be allowed to go unreported, even if the culprit happens to be a public servant or a priest. This kind of abuse will only stop if everybody work together in eliminating it in our schools, villages, communities, and the home. Victims of sexual abuse should always be protected and given proper care, understanding and counselling.

Schools. Parents are the first teachers of their children and have the primary right and responsibility to educate them. However, they need the parish, the Christian community and particularly, the school to help them educate their children. Our Catholic Agency schools are an essential vehicle for the continued evangelization and education of our children and youth in the Christian faith.

Every Catholic agency school should make it their primary mission to evangelize and educate the children in the faith. This is the highest form of education. Let us remember that Christ is the Teacher of life, and we should explain Christ’s teachings to the children. The school board of management should make sure that the children get a proper and Christian education which the parents desire for them. The parish priest, who represents the Bishop as head of the Agency, is an essential member of the school board. The board makes policies so that the school preserve its Catholic identity and values. The board decides and approves the kind of teachers who teach in the school. They also decide on which students are to be enrolled while honouring the selection policies and guidelines of the government.

It is essential that our schools be 100% Catholic. Teachers in our schools should not only be academically qualified, but also true witnesses of the Christian faith by word and example. They are to serve as role models to our children and youth. Religious education (RE) is an essential core curriculum in every Catholic Agency school, and must be allotted the number of periods set down by the National Catholic Education Board. Teachers in Catholic schools are expected to not only to teach Religious Education, but also to prepare well for it. They should be qualified and hold a certificate for this, as well as continuously update themselves in the teachings and catechism of the Catholic Church. Educating children in the faith is not to be regarded as a mere drudgery and obligation. It is a service of love and joy. There is no greater love that a teacher can give to their students than to help them grow to be mature persons and responsible citizens of this country according to the wisdom of Christ, our Supreme Teacher.

Children and Youth. The future of Christian married life and the family lies in the youth of today. The youth of today are the material by which we build the Christian family of tomorrow. They are to be assured of a good Christian upbringing starting in the home. Most important, parents must show much love, dedication and care to their children. Parents are not to delay in having their children baptized in the Church. Parents should make sure that a month after birth, or even earlier, their children receive the sacrament of Baptism, and accept the responsibility to raise them up in the faith. Through Baptism they become children of God and are incorporated into Christ and the Church, the Family of God. Parishes and schools should develop a program which prepares children for their first Holy Communion soon after they attain the age of reason (7 years old). Confirmation class should be carefully prepared so as to assure that those to be confirmed have learned adequately the basics of our faith so as to give a clear and bold witness to it in daily life.

Parents and Christian communities are to pay esp. attention to the youth of today, and show them much love, understanding and patience. The youth need to be listened to. We have to dialogue with them on many of the questions that confuse them and keep them away from the Church. The parish should support the Youth Ministry program. Every Catholic community should realize that they have an important duty to form the youth of their parish according to our Christian Catholic faith. The parish, CCC and SCC are to involve the youth in their liturgical, apostolic and other church activities. We want to form young people who have a sense of personal self-discipline and self-control, and who can unselfishly give themselves to others in love and service in the manner of Christ. We wish to form them also to be Marian since Mary is the perfect disciple of Christ. She is the model for our youth of faith, purity, humility, obedience and charity. The theme of this year’s December Youth Convention is “Courage! Come to Jesus through Mary.”

New Teachers College. The Government of Milne Bay Province as well as the Catholic Diocese of Alotau have signed a memorandum of agreement on April 3, 2014, at the Masurina Lodge to construct a primary teachers college at the church land in Hagita. Acting Provincial Administrator, Mr. Michael Kape, signed for the government, while I, as bishop, signed for the diocese of Alotau. The Honorable Governor, Titus Philemon, signed as principal witness. I, as bishop, signed it not only because I was happy to partner with the government in such worthy a cause, but also because I see the teachers college as a good vehicle for the continued evangelization of Milne Bay Province.

The school will be officially called “St. Mary Teachers College – Milne Bay Province”. St. Mary is the patron because being the Mother of Jesus, she is the first teacher of the greatest Teacher of all time. Moreover, as a mother, she stands for the dignity of all parents who have the primary right and responsibility to educate their children. The motto of the college is “Vita et Veritas”. As a Catholic Agency school, St. Mary Teachers College is committed to upholding life (vita) and serving truth (veritas). The college will do this by training quality teachers who will be imbued with the Gospel teachings of Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, after the example of Mary, the perfect disciple of Christ.

The teachers college will be open to Catholics but also to young people of all faiths and denominations who are willing to be educated according to the best teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church. There is no need for non-Catholics to fear since this Catholic college will uphold with the strictest compliance the purity of the Christian faith. The government need not fear either since the Catholic Church has always championed religious freedom and the basic equality of all regardless of faith or gender.

Ecumenism and Church Unity. At the cenacle before he died, Jesus prayed for the unity of all those who will believe in him. “May they all be one as you, Father, and I are one so that the world may believe that it was you who sent me.” All Christians are called to work for the unity of all Christians. We have to work on respecting each other and not to spread lies or misinformation based on plain ignorance, misconception or bias. We have to work on understanding each other’s beliefs, and more importantly come to a proper understanding of the Christian faith as taught by Christ through the Church. It is also important that we collaborate together in the work of evangelization, integral human development, eradication of poverty and the establishment of a just and more peaceful society for all. Finally, let us pray that one day we, Christians, may finally be united under one Church and one leadership which upholds what is essential in the faith and respects diversity in the expressions of that one faith.

As we look forward to the great feast of Pentecost, let us open wide our hearts and minds to receive the Holy Spirit. May he may dwell in our hearts and transform us with his fire to become more and more like Christ, the evangelizer. May we also be filled with the love of Mary who during the visitation filled her cousin, Elizabeth, with joy as she brought her the Saviour whom she carried in her womb. May we also, like Mary, give joy to families as we bring to them the Christ we carry in our lives.

Sincerely in Christ,

+Rolando C. Santos, C.M.

Bishop of Alotau-Sideia

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