Financial literacy key to development

By Lilian Matbob – Madang

More than one hundred and thirty settlers from the four settlements areas in Madang Town area received their certificates of participation in financial literacy on 21 October. The settlers consisting of youths, women and men from Gavstoa, Lain Banana, Kerema Compound and Stik Masis attended a three-day training on savings and budgeting. The message re-echoed throughout their training was that high intelligence, big positions and big pay packet does not equate to financial success. However, careful management of one’s income including regular saving will set you on the track to financial freedom someday.

Bogia Cooperative Society (BCS) through the Bank of Papua New Guinea’s (BPNG) Microfinance Expansion Project (MEP) has been delivering this financial literacy training to the communities in the Madang and Bogia Districts throughout this year. Executive Director of BCS, Mr Peter Muriki in his remarks to the graduands reminded them that this is a national government program with funding assistance from Asian Development Bank and AusAID and PNG Government. He encouraged them to start working hard and to use the knowledge to better their lives.

Former Madang Governor and Senior Statesman, Chief Sir Arnold Amet and his wife were present to witness and handover the certificates to the graduands. He pledged his support and wants to see this training extend to others who have not received it. The participants expressed appreciation for the knowledge they have received. Nearly all the participants regretted spending unwisely their hard-earned money all these years and wished they had had this knowledge earlier.

Bart Siriemba from Oro Province said that he had been looking for such opportunity to learn how to manage his money and this training has met his need. He said that when we can manage our money well, we can manage our families and our lives well too.

Tracy Kapai, a young mother said that this training meets the needs of young mothers to start looking after their money and save it for the future of their children and families.

Poveta Tore encouraged everyone to start working hard. She said that there are resources all around us and we cannot be idle. “If we sweat, we will see the fruits of our hard work,” she said.

BCS this week achieved its target of training 3,900 people in financial literacy. There are plans to continue this training next year. BCS continues to get more requests for training as the people realise the importance of this knowledge.


Mission Sunday in a mountain parish

By Bomai D Witne

Saint Anthony Liklik Kristen Komuniti (LKK) was tasked to prepare for the liturgy on Sunday 19 October at Mary Help of Christians Parish-Kefamo outside of Goroka town. The Roberts, Elus and the Bomais came with flowers and bush plants to decorate the church and rehearse for Sunday celebrations. All was set for Sunday. The Parish priest, Fr Michele was set for the Mass. The Saint Anthony LKK and parishioners were ready. The Chairman welcomed everyone and reminded the parishioners of the in house rules like removing caps and putting mobile phones off as a mark of respect.

The parish chairman briefly explained the reasons for the decorations, especially the five colored ribbons at the pulpit and the world map placed in-front of the altar. The different colors of the ribbon resembled the five different continents on the world map and made connection to Mary Help of Christian Parish on the occasion of Mission Sunday. The parishioners took the message well.

The Eucharist celebration for Mission Sunday began with Saint Anthony LKK singing, ‘long taim bipo ol misineri i bin i kam, ol i bin I kam sua…’. The beginning song relayed the message of the historical journey of the Catholic Missionaries and their tireless and selfless commitment to establishing and nurturing Catholic faith in Papua New Guinea. The song continued to challenge modern day Catholics to continue the tradition in upholding and growing the Catholic faith until the end of time. This song introduces the World Mission Sunday as a continuing mark and legacy of the Church in reaching out to others.

The homily from the gospel of Luke on Jesus sending seventy two disciples in pairs and the message of intrinsic challenge and joy emanating from discipleship has lived the test of time. Holy Father, Pope Francis’ letter to the universal church on the 8th of June 2014 provided clear spiritual insights into the Sunday’s gospel.

The gospel story of the disciples being happy and could not hold back from sharing their experiences with Jesus and Jesus reminded them not to be too happy with what they saw and experienced. Instead, they should be happy that their names were written in the books of heaven. This has always been the intrinsic value and foundation in the work of missionaries. Fr Michele stressed that the work of a missionary does not only lie with the priest but lies with all parishioners. It must start in the family.

Families within the LKK must live a life of discipleship through their words and actions. It has to be a lived experience. Families have to join hands with the leaders of the LKK and the priest to teach people on the sacraments, as sacraments strengthened, empowers and shows the way of the Catholic faith. It was emphasized that the parents of a child can be a Christian but the child’s Christian faith and Christian living depends on the parents and community’s time, care and involvement in the child’s Christian upbring. The Church exists to help the parents and community. The mission of a Catholic starts in the family. The child learns the good and bad of reaching out to others in the family.

The prayer and offer for the Mission Sunday at Saint Mary Help of Christians Parish was a small expression of faith, keeping in mind the kind heart and gesture from the Catholic community all over the world that Sunday. The five believers from the different LKK offered a prayer to God for the missionaries and the challenges facing them in the different continents. A special prayer was made for the missionaries in Oceania and Africa and the families that are affected by HIV and Ebola. The believers linked the ribbon from the pulpit to the world map at the altar after each petition.

The ‘Sane Skul’ (Sunday school) children led the offer to the altar and one of them showed a drawing to the parishioners and explained what the drawing meant to the Mission Sunday. One of the altar servers from Saint Anthony LKK shared a card with the help of the parish Priest with the children.


Australian couple talk at Synod

By Ron and Mavis Pirola (Sydney, Australia)

Fifty-seven years ago, I looked across a room and saw a beautiful young woman. We came to know each other over time and eventually took the huge step of committing ourselves to each other in marriage. We soon found that living our new life together was extraordinarily complex. Like all marriages, we have had wonderful times together and also times of anger, frustration and tears and the nagging fear of a failed marriage. Yet here we are, 55 years married and still in love. It certainly is a mystery.

That attraction that we first felt and the continued bonding force between us was basically sexual. The little things we did for each other, the telephone calls and love notes, the way we planned our day around each other and the things we shared were outward expressions of our longing to be intimate with each other.

As each of our four children arrived, it was an exhilarating joy for which we still thank the Lord daily. Of course, the complexities of parenting had great rewards and challenges. There were nights when we would lie awake wondering where we had gone wrong.

Our faith in Jesus was important to us. We went to Mass together and looked to the Church for guidance. Occasionally we looked at Church documents but they seemed to be from another planet with difficult language1 and not terribly relevant to our own experiences.

In our life’s journey together, we were primarily influenced through involvement with other married couples and some priests, mainly in lay spirituality movements, particularly Équipes Notre Dame and Worldwide Marriage Encounter.2 The process was one of prayerful listening to each others’ stories and of being accepted and affirmed in the context of Church teaching. There was not much discussion about natural law but for us they were examples of what Pope John Paul would later refer to as one of the Church’s major resources for evangelization.3

Gradually we came to see that the only feature that distinguishes our sacramental relationship from that of any other good Christ-centred relationship is sexual intimacy and that marriage is a sexual sacrament with its fullest expression in sexual intercourse. We believe that until married couples come to reverence sexual union as an essential part of their spirituality it is extremely hard to appreciate the beauty of teachings such as those of Humanae Vitae. We need new ways and relatable language to touch peoples’ hearts.

As the Instrumentum laboris suggests, the domestic church has much to offer the wider Church in its evangelizing role.4 For example, the Church constantly faces the tension of upholding the truth while expressing compassion and mercy. Families face this tension all the time.

Take homosexuality as an example. Friends of ours were planning their Christmas family gathering when their gay son said he wanted to bring his partner home too. They fully believed in the Church’s teachings and they knew their grandchildren would see them welcome the son and his partner into the family. Their response could be summed up in three words, ‘He is our son’.

What a model of evangelization for parishes as they respond to similar situations in their neghbourhood! It is a practical example of what the Instrumentum laboris says concerning the Church’s teaching role and its main mission to let the world know of God’s love.5

In our experience, families, the domestic churches, are often the natural models of the open doors for churches of which Gaudium Evangelii speaks.

A divorced friend of ours says that sometimes she doesn’t feel fully accepted in her parish. However, she turns up to Mass regularly and uncomplainingly with her children. For the rest of her parish she should be a model of courage and commitment in the face of adversity. From people like her we learn to recognize that we all carry an element of brokenness in our lives. Appreciating our own brokenness helps enormously to reduce our tendency to be judgemental of others which is such a block for evangelisation.

We know an elderly widow who lives with her only son. He is in his forties and has Down syndrome and schizophrenia. She cares for him inspiringly and her only expressed fear is who will care for him when she is no longer able.

Our lives are touched by many such families. These families have a basic understanding of what the Church teaches. They could always benefit from better teaching and programs. However, more than anything they need to be accompanied on their journey, welcomed, have their stories listened to, and, above all, affirmed.7

The Instrumentum laboris notes that the beauty of human love mirrors the divine love as recorded in biblical tradition in the prophets. But their family lives were chaotic and full of messy dramas. Yes, family life is ‘messy’. But so is parish, which is the ‘family of families’.

The Instrumentum laboris questions how ‘the clergy [could] be better prepared … in … presenting the documents of the Church on marriage and the family’.8 Again, one way could be by learning from the domestic church. As Pope Benedict XVI said, ‘This demands a change in mindset, particularly concerning lay people. They must no longer be viewed as “collaborators” of the clergy but truly recognized as “co-responsible”, for the Church’s being and action’.9 That would also require a major attitudinal change for laity.

We have eight wonderful, unique grandchildren. We pray for them by name daily because daily they are exposed to the distorted messages of modern society, even as they walk down the street to school such messages are on billboards or appear on their smartphones.

A high respect for authority, parental, religious or secular, has long gone. So their parents learn to enter into the lives of their children, to share their values and hopes for them and also to learn from them in turn. This process of entering into the lives of our other persons and learning from them as well as sharing with them is at the heart of evangelization. As Pope Paul VI wrote in Evangelii Nuntiandi, ‘The parents not only communicate the Gospel to their children, but from their children they can themselves receive the same Gospel as deeply lived by them.’10 That has certainly been our experience.

In fact, we resonate with the suggestion of one of our daughters regarding the development of what she calls a nuptial paradigm11 for Christian spirituality, one that applies to all people, whether single, celibate or married but which would make matrimony the starting point for understanding mission. It would have a solid biblical and anthropological basis and would highlight the vocational instinct for generativity and intimacy experienced by each person. It would remind us that each of us is created for relationship12 and that baptism in Christ means belonging to his Body, leading us towards an eternity with God who is a Trinitarian communion of love.


1 It amazes us that in any pharmacy we can buy tablets in a packet that contains a detailed pamphlet that explains complex scientific aspects of the medicine in simple lay language and which will withstand possible litigation in court. There is an urgent need for a comparable approach to the documents of the Magisterium. A practical example of how this might be done was given by Prof Jane Adolphe at the XXI Genreal Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family (PCF), Oct 23-25, 2013. The PCF’s Charter of the Rights of the Family is a beautiful Church document, complete with extensive Church references. Hence, it is generally viewed as a ‘Church document’ and rarely quoted in secular circles. Prof Adolph has re-drafted the document, making the same points with entirely secular references, thus making it a document likely to be quoted by secular organizations such as the UN and therefore much more likely to be read in the public domain.

2 We were deeply influenced also by contact with, or involvement in, other lay spirituality organizations and movements such as Charismatic Renewal, the Pastoral and Matrimonial Renewal Centre, the Antioch Youth Movement and Focolare.

3 Pope John Paul II, “the family is one of the Church’s most effective agents of evangelisation and not simply the object of the Church’s pastoral care’, 1999, Ecclesia in Asia, 46.

4 Instrumentum laboris, III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the topic: The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization, Vatican City, 2014. No.4. ‘… the Church, in order to fully understand her mystery, looks to the Christian family, which manifests her in a real way.’

5 Instrumentum laboris, III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the topic: The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization, Vatican City, 2014. Preface, para 2. ‘[The Synod] is called to reflect on the path to follow to communicate to everyone the truth about conjugal love and the family and respond to its many challenges (cf. EG, 66). The family is an inexhaustible resource and font of life in the Church’s pastoral activity. Therefore, the primary task of the Church is to proclaim the beauty of the vocation to love which holds great potential for society and the Church.’

6 Pope Francis, 2013, Evangelii Gaudium, 46.

7 When people are affirmed for the good they do, they do it better. Hence the value of St Pope John Paul II’s statement, ‘Family, become what you are!’ (FC, 17).

8 Instrumentum laboris, III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the topic: The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization, Vatican City, 2014. No.12. ‘that the clergy be better prepared and exercise a sense of responsibility in explaining the Word of God and presenting the documents of the Church on marriage and the family.

9 Pope Benedict XVI, 26 May 2009, Address at Rome Diocese pastoral convention on the theme “Church Membership and Pastoral Co-responsibility”, as reported in Zenit, Vatican City, 4 June 2009.

10 Pope Paul VI, 1975, EN 71.

11 Teresa Pirola, ‘Family life in a post-conciliar pastoral agenda’, Aust eJournal of Theology, 2012, 19:2.

12 St Pope John Paul II, Wednesday General Audience, ‘The nuptial meaning of the body’, 8 Jan 1980.

[03008-02.01] [Original text: English]



The Vineyard is the Family

VATICAN CITY, October 05, 2014 ( – At 10 am today, the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Pope Francis presided at the celebration of Holy Mass in the Vatican Basilica on the occasion of the opening of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme: The pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization.

Concelebrating with the Holy Father were cardinals, patriarchs, major archbishops, archbishops, bishops and priests, and members of the Synod.

After the proclamation of the Gospel, the Pope delivered the following homily below:


Today the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel employ the image of the Lord’s vineyard. The Lord’s vineyard is his “dream”, the plan which he nurtures with all his love, like a farmer who cares for his vineyard. Vines are plants which need much care!

God’s “dream” is his people. He planted it and nurtured it with patient and faithful love, so that it can become a holy people, a people which brings forth abundant fruits of justice.

But in both the ancient prophecy and in Jesus’ parable, God’s dream is thwarted. Isaiah says that the vine which he so loved and nurtured has yielded “wild grapes” (5:2,4); God “expected justice but saw bloodshed, righteousness, but only a cry of distress” (v. 7). In the Gospel, it is the farmers themselves who ruin the Lord’s plan: they fail to do their job but think only of their own interests.

In Jesus’ parable, he is addressing the chief priests and the elders of the people, in other words the “experts”, the managers. To them in a particular way God entrusted his “dream”, his people, for them to nurture, tend and protect from the animals of the field. This is the job of leaders: to nurture the vineyard with freedom, creativity and hard work.

But Jesus tells us that those farmers took over the vineyard. Out of greed and pride they want to do with it as they will, and so they prevent God from realizing his dream for the people he has chosen.

The temptation to greed is ever present. We encounter it also in the great prophecy of Ezekiel on the shepherds (cf. ch. 34), which Saint Augustine commented upon in one his celebrated sermons which we have just reread in the Liturgy of the Hours. Greed for money and power. And to satisfy this greed, evil pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move (cf. Mt 23:4)

We too, in the Synod of Bishops, are called to work for the Lord’s vineyard. Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent… They are meant to better nurture and tend the Lord’s vineyard, to help realize his dream, his loving plan for his people. In this case the Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity.

We too can be tempted to “take over” the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants. We can “thwart” God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us that wisdom which surpasses knowledge, and enables us to work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity.

My brothers, to do a good job of nurturing and tending the vineyard, our hearts and our minds must be kept in Jesus Christ, as Saint Paul says, by “the peace of God which passes all understanding” (Phil 4:7). In this way our thoughts and plans will correspond to God’s dream: to form a holy people who are his own and produce the fruits of the kingdom of God (cf. Mt21:43).

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by the Vatican]


PNG religious affiliation

2011 census data now released

Over the years the Melanesian Institute has faithfully documented the figures on the religious affiliation of people in PNG when the National Statistic Office (NSO) has released them.[1] After three years wait, a range of statistics from the 2011 Census have now been released, including those regarding religious affiliation. The following tables present the 2011 Census figures in regard to the whole of PNG; they also compare them with those of previous censuses (1966, 1980, 1990, and 2000). From these figures we can identify clear trends in religious affiliation in PNG. Tables detailing the religious affiliation in individual provinces of PNG will be published in future issues of Catalyst.


Table 1: PNG citizen population by religious affiliation (2011)

  Total Male Female
Citizens in private dwellings 7,229,880 3,741,307 (51.7%) 3,488,573 (48.3%)
Christian 6,908,022 (95.6%) 3,574,161 (51.7%) 3,333,861 (48.3%)

Evangelical Alliance*

Evangelical Lutheran**

Roman Catholic

Salvation Army

Seventh Day Adventist

United Church

Kwato Church



Other Christian

220,392 (3.1%)

406,303 (5.8%)

1,269,361 (18.4%)

1,798,013 (26.0%)

24,427 (0.4%)

888,979 (12.9%)

710,757 (10.3%)

11,705 (0.2%)

715,208 (10.4%)

195,421 (2.8%)

667,456 (9.7%)

115,535 (52.4%)

207,331 (51.0%)

664,767 (52.4%)

934,619 (52.0%)

12,871 (52.7%)

458,461 (51.6%)

370,943 (52.2%)

6259 (53.5%)

361,655 (50.6%)

100,458 (51.4%)

341,262 (51.1%)

104,857 (47.6%)

198,972 (49.0%)

604,594 (47.6%)

863,394 (48.0%)

11,556 (47.3%)

430,518 (48.4%)

339,814 (47.8%)

5446 (46.5%)

353,553 (49.4%)

94,963 (48.6%)

326,194 (48.9%)

Other Religions 97,892 (1.4%) 50,303 (51.4%) 47,589 (48.6%)

Church of Christ***

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Other Religion













No religion 1,940 (0.03%) 1,032 (53.2%) 908 (46.8%)
Not stated 222,026 (3.1%) 115,811 (52.2%) 106,215 (47.8%)

*At present I do not know what churches were included under the labels of Evangelical Alliance, Pentecostals and Other Christian.

**includes the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Gutnius Lutheran Church.

*** i.e. The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints/alias Mormons

Source: NSO, Census 2011.

One first observation regards the fact that the table is restricted to the ‘citizens in private dwelling’. In previous data release by NSO (“Population at Glance”), total PNG population amounted to 7,275,324, i.e. 45,444 people more. Is this the number of non-citizens plus citizens non in private dwelling?

Another observation regards the sex ratio of the PNG population. As in previous censuses, it greatly favours men: 108 male per 100 female. It is also interesting to see that as in previous censuses the so called “Mainline Churches” (Anglican, Lutheran, Roman Catholic and United) have a slightly lower percentage of women compared to the non-mainline churches: i.e. the latter have an average percentage that varies between 48.4 and 49.4 while the former between 46.6 and 48.0. Is it a small indication that women are the first to leave the mainline churches? The mainline churches now claim just over half the Christian population (55.8%) confirming a trend of percentage decline already started after the first census in 1966.

So far the NSO has not released the code used for grouping the churches into Evangelical, Pentecostal and Other Christian.[2] Neither it has explained why, as happened in the 2000 Census statistics, that Jehovah’s Witnesses and the “Church of Christ” (i.e. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also called the Mormons) were listed with the non-Christian religions.

As in previous censuses, “No religion” probably includes those who adhere to Traditional Melanesian Religions. Additionally, the category of “Other Religions” has not been broken down into constituent parts, so we do not know how many PNG citizens in private dwelling are Hindus, Buddhists, Jews or Muslims. Since one can guess that many members of non-Christian religions are foreigner, their number should also be given.

The number of people who did not state their religious affiliation is surprising. Was it due to people refusing to say whether or not they were a member of a religious group, or an indication that census collectors failed to record it?


While keeping in mind the possible causes of inaccuracy in PNG census figures (which I listed in Catalyst 34/1, p. 52), it is still a useful exercise to document the shift in religious affiliation in PNG in the last 45 years (1966-2011). However any comparison cannot be perfect since the list of churches and other religions given in the different censuses has changed over time.[3]

Table 2: Trends in religious affiliation in PNG, 1966-2011

Census Year 1966 1990 2000 2011
Citizens in private dwellings 2,078,560 3,582,333 5,171,548 7,229,880
Christian* 1,913,110 (92%) 3,458,577 (96%) 4,934,098 (96%) 6.908,022 (96%)

Evangelical Alliance

Evangelical Lutheran

Roman Catholic

Salvation Army

Seventh Day Adventist

United Church

Kwato Church



Other Christian

104,336 (5.0%)

114,660 (5.5%)

592,936 (28.5%)

619,814 (29.8%)


64,545 (3.1%)

301,897 (14.5%)




114,505 (5.5%)

141,082 (3.9%)

314,023 (8.8%)

831,598 (23.2%)

1,012,091 (28.3%)

7,741 (0.2%)

289,446 (8.1%)

445,689 (12.7%)




154,121 (4.3%)

166,046 (3.2%)

266,598 (5.2%)

1,001,005 (19.5%)

1,391,033 (27.0%)

10,377 (0.2%)

520,098 (10.0%)

591,458 (11.5%)


440,904 (8.6%)

130,987 (2.5%)

415,592 (8.0%)

220,392 (3.1%)

406,303 (5.8%)


1,798,013 (26.0%)

24,427 (0.4%)

888,979 (12.9%)

710,757 (10.3%)

11,705 (0.2%)

715,208 (10.4%)

195,421 (2.8%)

667,456 ((9.7%)

Other Religions** 262 (0,001%) 10,319 (0.03%) 72,406 (1.4%) 97,892 (1.4%)

Church of Christ

Jehovah’s Witness

Other Religion














39,341 (0.6%)*

26,355 ((0.4%)


No religion** 161,298 (7.8%) 91,771 (2.6%) 30,733 (0.6%) 1,940 (0.03%)
Not stated** 3,890 (0.2%) 21.666 (0.6%) 103,239 (2.0%) 222,026 (3.1%)

*Percentage of the different denominations refers to the total Christian population.

** Percentage refers to the total population.

It is striking to see that over the last 45 years the PNG population—as well as the Christian one—has more than tripled. The Christian population seems to have stabilised at around 96% of the total. The percentage annual growth between 1980 and 2011 has been 2.9 and in the latest period (2000-2011) 3.1.

If one notes the figures given in the different censuses to Evangelical Alliance, Pentecostal, and Other Christian, one may easily infer that there was inconsistency in the classification of churches belonging to those three groups. In other words, the Census Code Divisions of Evangelical Alliance, Pentecostal, and Other Christian have been changed several times.

The staggering increase in the number of “not stated” is disturbing. If it is due to people refusing to disclose their religious affiliation, it means that religious affiliation is now being considered something private and confidential. If it is due to people being confused about their religious affiliation, it is a sad sign of how the proliferation of Christian denominations is eroding the sense of identity of people and communities. If it is due to negligence on the part of census collectors, it undermines the credibility of the whole census exercise.

The Mainline Churches, while growing in numbers, have consistently declined in percentage, while other Christian denominations have grown both in numbers and percentage. Table 3 below documents this.

Table 3: PNG Religious affiliation by percentage 1966-1011

Christian Denominations                                                 1966         1980         1990         2000         2011
Anglican                                                                              5.0%         3.9%           3.9%         3.2%         3.1%

Evangelical Lutheran                                                         28.5%       26.3%         23.2%       19.5%       18.4%

Roman Catholic                                                                 29.8%       31.5%         28.3%       27.0%       26.0%

United Church                                                                   14.5%       13.1%         12.6%       11.5%       10.3%

Seventh Day Adventist                                                       3.1%         4.6%           8.1%       10.0%       12.9%

Evangelical Alliance/Pentecostal/Other Churches*   11.0%       13.5%         20.1%       24.8%       30.3%

Non Christian                                                                     0.001%     0.01%         0.03%         0.4%         0.4%
No Religion**                                                                         7.8%       2.6%         2.6%         0.6%       0.03%
Not Stated                                                                             0.2%       0.6%         0.6%         2.0%           3.1%

*inclusive of Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witness.

**inclusive of people following traditional religions.

The percentage decline in membership of the Mainline Churches between 1966 and 2011 has been quite remarkable, namely the Anglican from 5.0% in 1966 to 3.1% in 2011, the Evangelical Lutheran from 28.5% to 18.4%, The Roman Catholic from 29.8% to 26.0%, and the United from 14.5% to 10.3%.

Unlike the Mainline Churches, other Christian denominations have been consistently growing in percentage terms. This is certainly the case for the Seventh Day Adventist Church (from 3.1% in 1966 to 12.9% in 2011) and some of the churches under the umbrella of “Evangelical Alliance”, “Pentecostal Federation” and “Other Christian”. Unfortunately the NSO did not release the names nor the membership figures of the different churches belonging to those three major groups.

Table 4 sums up the percentage decline of the Mainline Churches, which were the pioneer churches in the evangelisation of PNG, and the percentage increase of the non-mainline ones.

Table 4: Percentage of PNG Christian Population belonging to the 4 Mainline Churches and the non-mainline ones (1966-2011)

Christian Churches                                                   1966           1980           1990             2000             2011                        
Mainline Churches                                                   77.8%         74.8%         68.1%           61.2%           55.8%

Non Mainline*                                                           14.2%           18.2%         27.8%           35.0%           44.2%

Source: different censuses

In previous publications the Melanesian Institute has listed many reasons given by church leaders and other interviewees for the shift in Papua New Guineans’ religious affiliation over the years.[4] The size of the shift, as seen in the above figures, has not declined but increased from census to census, with the only exception in the decade 1990-2000: 4% increase between 1966 and 1980, 9.6% between 1980 and 1990, 7.8% between 1990 and 2000, and 9.2% between 2000 and 2011. I wonder whether by the time of the next PNG census the non-mainline churches’ membership will outnumber that of the pioneer churches.


GIBBS, Philip 2004, “Growth, Decline and Confusion: Church Affiliation in Papua New Guinea”, Catalyst 34/2, 164-184.

National Statistical Office, Census Results 1966, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2011.

SCHNIJDERS, Jan 1986, Towards a Religious Map of Papua New Guinea, Melanesian Journal of Theology, 2/2, 208-213

VINCENT, David 1993, “Documentation on the Churches in PNG”, Catalyst, 23/1, 39-56.

ZOCCA, Franco 1995, “Winds of Change’ also in PNG?”, Catalyst 25/2, 174-187.

ZOCCA, Franco 2004, Religious Affiliation in Papua New Guinea according to the 2000 Census, Catalyst 34/1, 40-56.

[1] See: Vincent, D 1993, Documentation on the Churches in PNG, in Catalyst 23/1, 39-56; Zocca, F, Winds of Change also in PNG?, in Catalyst 25/2, 174-187; Id., Religious affiliation in Papua New Guinea according to the 2000 Census, in Catalyst 34/1, 40-56; Gibbs, P, Growth, Decline and Confusion: Church affiliation in Papua New Guinea, in Catalyst 34/2, 164-184.

[2] In Catalyst 34/1, p. 44, Chart 1 lists the churches classified as Evangelical, Pentecostal and Other Christian in the 2000 Census. On p. 45, Chart 2 gives the official list of churches belonging to the Evangelical Alliance and to the Pentecostal Federation in PNG.

[3] Cf. Table 4 in Catalyst 34/2, p. 171.

[4] Catalyst 23/1, 34/1 and 34/2; POINT 31: Melanesia and Its Churches, by Franco Zocca.


Mary in the Catholic Tradition

A response to Pastor Goodfrey Wippon (Sunday Chronicle, 3 Aug 2014, p. 13)

By Fr Giorgio Licini – PNG & SI Catholic Bishops Conference

The New Testament (NT) reflects the life and faith of the early Church. It is a final word about direct revelation, though not the full understanding and/or implementation of it. Direct revelation concluded with the death of the last Apostle, presumably the Apostle John. The books of the New Testament themselves (Gospels, Acts, Letters, Revelation) have different immediate purposes. Each book was written for a different audience, though not written in the order we know of them today. Other books on similar topics were also written at that time, but these books either got lost or were never accepted by the Church as genuinely reflecting the life and message of Jesus. The twenty-seven (27) books, now common to all Christians and accepted as such by the end of the 4thcentury, are indeed recognized as a genuine profession of faith. These books, however, are not to be seen as books of history or as texts providing a definite and comprehensive Christian theology. Rather, they are like a nut or a seed from which the faith and life of the Church grew like a tree over the course of the centuries. The books have to be taken as a whole without necessarily attributing a final and exclusive word of meaning to the individual verses.


It is necessary to keep all these things in mind in order to properly understand further developments in the Church, for example, the Lord’s Day (Sunday), or the hierarchical organization of the Church, or the role and personality of Mary. In the New Testament we do not find all the details of our Christian practice today. On the other hand, limiting our practice and faith to the New Testament would deprive us of all the goodness and further understanding that flows from it. The New Testament was first of all a living faith and oral teaching before it was set to writing some forty, fifty, or seventy years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Scripture and Tradition are intertwined and impossible to separate.

Concerning Mary some of the books of the New Testament say nothing. Other books, however, teach basic truths and facts: she gave birth to Jesus, she ushered in his ministry at Cana, she accompanied her son in his mission, she was at the foot of the cross with the Apostle John, a pillar of the early Church; and finally she was in the cenacle at the moment the Church was born through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Are all these both historical facts and theological truths? Certainly they are theological truths supported by basic historical facts which we can’t, however, verify with certainty in their details. In other words, we have no other written sources, for example, that talk about Jesus and his mother at Nazareth or Cana or Jerusalem, except some of the books of the New Testament, which bring in the facts for the theological purpose of their narrative and give origin to the uninterrupted Tradition of the Church.

For those who reject Tradition, and following Martin Luther (1483-1586), base their faith on Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura) it will be hard to accept the devotion and the understanding that the Catholic Church has achieved and preserved about Mary. It is not, in fact, a matter of religiously checking to see if any declaration about Mary is clearly and openly included in the New Testament, but rather to see how it faithfully developed from it.


What is basic, is the relationship between Jesus and his mother. As soon as the Christian Tradition that Jesus of Nazareth is both man and God was clarified in the times of Athanasius (296-373), after heated debate, it was then that Mary, a human creature, emerged more clearly associated with the divine. Jesus is God, so she is the Mother of God. Jesus cannot be separated from the Church, since He is the head of the Church and the Church is his body, so Mary is also mother of the Church, mother of the whole body and not only of its head.

The Catholic Church believes that Mary deserves to be held in high esteem because of her role in God’s plan of salvation for mankind. It is clear in the New Testament that it was because of her faith and servant spirit that the Son of God became man in her (Lk 1:26-38). It is also clear that she was with Jesus, and later with the Apostles, as a mother to them and mother to the ‘new people’ brought forth by Jesus’ death and resurrection (Acts 1:14).

From this starting point Tradition developed, professed and accepted other important theological truths about Mary; for example, her Virginity, her Immaculate Conception, her Assumption into heaven, etc. These truths were first debated, accepted, believed, celebrated, and finally officially declared articles of faith by the Church at different times. The Assumption is the most recent, 1950. The Immaculate Conception was declared in 1854. The Virginity of Mary was already widely supported by the Church Fathers as early as the 4th Century. Several Ecumenical Councils also supported it as early as the 7th Century.   These articles of faith are to be held as divine realities, which transcend and expand their historical and physical dimensions; like the Resurrection of Christ, which is indeed something more and different from simply a corpse coming back to life.


These truths may be more or less relevant to the faith and Christian practice of different peoples in different times and places. Individuals may personally feel more or less inclined to develop a strong devotion to Mary. What is basic, however, is that as Jesus came to us through Mary, so too we can more easily go to him through her.

Mary is not God; her Son is. Mary is not the Redeemer; her Son is. Mary is not to be worshipped and glorified; her Son is. Mary is just the object of infinite gratitude, devotion and intercession for partnering with God, though at her human but privileged level, in giving us the Saviour of the world and helping us have better access to him. The truths about Mary and the Tradition in general do not diminish or betray Scripture, but instead shed on it a light that is brighter and more meaningful. (


The family, a work in progress

Sacraments, polygamy, contraception

By Fr Giorgio Licini – Catholic Reporter PNG

“We need to stress the weaknesses and at the same time the complexity of the family in the Melanesian context”. This is what Catholic bishop Arnold Orawae of Wabag, Enga province told a press conference in Port Moresby on Thursday. He was a few hours away from flying off to Rome to attend a worldwide gathering (Synod) of Catholic leaders with Pope Francis on the Family. Bishop Arnold will be representing PNG and Solomon Island in his capacity as President of the Bishops’ Conference of the two countries.

“People feel cut off from the Church”, he said, “when they can’t fully participate in its life, including the Sacraments. We need a flexible approach in this regard considering the variety of situations and the personal spiritual journey”. Bishop Arnold revealed that in his allotted time for intervention at the Synod he intends to explain that the idea of a “nuclear family” of parents and few children pertains only to the Western culture and way of life. In most of the world, including Melanesia, the family is a much more complex web or relationships which include close and far relatives. They also have responsibilities and thy also rejoice or suffer for the success or failure of a specific marriage. In some matrilineal societies of Melanesia the responsibility for the education and welfare of the children lies with the maternal uncles rather than the biological father of the offspring.

Questioned about the issue of polygamy Bishops Orowae acknowledged that the practice runs against Christian revelation. However, patience and a gradual journey are required to overcome entrenched social customs. Epidemics, natural calamities, tribal fights at times create gender imbalance and the conditions for polygamy.

As far as contraception is concerned the Church tends to stand with what is “natural”. Family apostolate activists John and Lucy Lavu, at the same press conference, stressed the fact that natural family planning methods are successful with committed and motivated couples. The aggressive campaigns for mass contraception and sterilization in rural areas fail to provide teenage girls and women, let alone the male partners, with informed choice. Apparently on purpose; and with great financial gain for some. “Then people come to us . We can counsel them, but hardly repair the damage done to their bodies”, Mrs. Lavu told Catholic Reporter PNG.