By Fr Giorgio Licini – Goroka
The new Pastoral Plan for the Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands (PNG/SI) was officially launched on Sunday 28 September at the parish of Mary Help of Christians in Goroka. The Apostolic Nuncio to PNG/SI, Abp Michael Banach, said in his homily that “this plan is for everybody”. In fact right after the Mass Bishop Otto Separi of Aitape, one of the main contributors to the text, handed over a copy of it to a local family, to students from the University of Goroka, to parish lay leaders, to the local parish priest Fr Bogdan Cofalik MSF, and to the Auxiliary Bishop of Honiara John Doaninoel.
It is the first time that Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands work out a common Pastoral Plan. It is the fruit of two years of study, sharing and research with its highlight at the General Assembly held in Madang on 5-11 November 2013 and attended by 150 Church representatives from the two countries.
The new evangelization is at the core of the pastoral plan along with the pastoral care of the family, the poor, the youth, the street kids, the media and a wide range of social concerns. “The world and the church are in the midst of a deep and ongoing crisis such as we have never experienced before”, the President of the Bishops’ Conference, Arnold Orowae of Wabag, writes in his presentation of the plan. He underlines the fact that especially the youth live in uncertainty and fear of the future; the family is breaking down; violence and corruption are on the rise and there is also “an identity crisis in the priesthood and religious life”.
The purpose of the pastoral plan and evangelization in general, according to Bishop Arnold is not “simply getting people to become Christians or Catholics, or even necessarily getting people to come to church. It is the whole process of announcing the living Christ. It is about living the consequences of our faith in Jesus Christ by bringing the gospel values of mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation into our lives, our workplace, and all our social, economic, and political responsibilities.” It’s the same old and “new” evangelization: not a matter of doctrines, but of life.