New Bishop for Wewak

Media release

Respect the refugees!

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of PNG/SI

Last week Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told the ABC he believed most of the 1,035 asylum seekers at the Manus Regional Processing Centre were not genuine refugees and would be sent home “within weeks”. He said talks were underway with Iran and Iraq to return the men home.

A 13-day hunger strike by the detainees in Manus was suspended on Monday, 26 January after security personnel stormed the compounds where the detainees were on hunger strike.
The hunger strike was against the plan by the PNG government to resettle the genuine refugees to a new camp in Manus Island under the guise of releasing them into the community.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands (CBC) is requesting the PNG Government and the Australian Government:

To give the asylum seekers a full and efficient refugee status determination process in the Manus Centre;
To provide safe and humane conditions for the asylum seekers;
Not to force the asylum seekers to return to their country if they are not safe;
To have a detailed policy on the resettlement of refugees in PNG.

This follows previous CBC statement of 15th Jan 2015.

Rev. Fr. Victor Roche, SVD
CBC General Secretary
1 February 2015


Children’s Day in Sandaun

By Fr Gianni Gattei – Aitape

We celebrated the fifth Sandaun Children’s Day last 5-7 December in Lumi. The place is not easy to access. It challenged us to organize the event there. The theme was: “Children’s dignity builds society”. There were 17 songs for the competition but four of the children, from Aitape and Nuku District, couldn’t make it. So we had 13 songs, with children from Aitape, Nuku and Lumi. It was a memorable time for the children and people in Lumi. Some of the schools in the District participated in the event performing different items. Around 150 children were accommodated for three days in the Catholic Mission facilities and well looked after with food and other needs. Many people attended every day, starting from 9am and ending at 4pm.

The weather was fine most of the time. A few showers didn’t prevent people from participating and dancing in the rain. Some disabled children also enjoyed the event and actively took part in the program. The local Catholic youth helped in the preparation of the facilities and guaranteed security throughout the event. The Catholic women helped with the cooking.

The daily program for the three days consisted in listening to the new songs of the competition and to other items prepared by the schools. We also had some inputs on the rights of the children and on their dignity. There were games to please the children and the public. The second day we went live on NBC National Radio for 30 minutes. It was a great achievement for Lumi and the children. This was thanks to Linda from NBC Vanimo who came for the second year to broadcast the event.

The songs touched on so many matters regarding the children: violence, family problems (including the negative impact of cell-phones in the family life), child abuse, rights of children, HIV/Aids, education problems, love for parents, village life, faith and government failure in dealing with children. At the end presents were given to all the children, worth 6,000.00 Kina.

For the organization of the event we received some help from the diocese of Aitape, from some local businesses, and from the religious communities. At a certain point we also received the good news of a generous donation from Nuku MP Joe Sungi. Unfortunately we didn’t have much support from the local governments in Aitape and Lumi districts. This shows that the little ones are easily left out of budget allocations. This Children’s Day was an eye opener for the local authorities. Hopefully they will better support the initiative next time. Again we achieved the goal: to let the children express themselves and grow in self-esteem; this was a strong message to the government authorities and the parents. One of the children, who participated in the Children’s Day since he was in Grade 6, now has become the studio engineer, and alone he arranged and recorded all the 17 songs of the latest event. He was a singer until Grade 8. Then he composed songs for other children and now he is the studio engineer: one of the fruits of the Children’s Day; a sign that if we cultivate the talents of the children and create opportunities for them, they can achieve great things.

“Let the children come to me”, Jesus said. That means, let them walk, don’t carry them always in your hands preventing them from freely expressing themselves; give them freedom to use their gifts, express themselves and do what they should do at their age. Sometimes being too possessive of the children keeps them away from Jesus and from following God’s plan. Respecting the dignity of the children help us to build a better society, healthier communities and stronger families. Let the children sing, shout! Let the children play! Love them! Let them go to Jesus!


Vanimo youth: “Without Jesus we are zero”

By Ignatius Wunum – Vanimo

The Diocesan Youth Rally was held from January 4 to 10, 2015. The Rally began on 4th afternoon. The theme the youth chose for their rally was “With Jesus you are hero, without Jesus you are zero.” Bishop Cesare Bonivento PIME, Bishop of Vanimo, presided over the inaugural Holy Mass on 5th morning. Rev. Fr. Donatus Mohan HGN, the Diocesan Youth Chaplain and Parish Priest of Holy Cross Parish, Vanimo Town, along with Robin Pumeni, the Diocesan Youth President, and the diocesan core team which included the youth leaders from different parishes worked hard for the organization of the rally. The hard work and dedication of many Priests, Sisters, Seminarians, and volunteers made the Rally a great success for the 800 plus youth that gathered in St. John Vianney Diocesan Minor Seminary, Ilolo, both from inland and coastal deaneries of the diocese. At the end of the rally the youth expressed their immense joy for the unique experience of prayer, reflection, discussion and activities that they had for six full days.

Compared to the rallies of the previous years, the major difference in this rally was that the youth in their outreach programs prior to the rally brought awareness and inspiration to the Catholic Youth in many of the parishes. The Holy Mass and other spiritual activities of the day were led by different parishes. Some of the seminars and reflections were on the following topics: spiritual life, health promotion, leadership, sin and repentance, penance and forgiveness, family values, etc. There were group discussions and reporting on the social evils that prevailed in their communities and their roles in resolving those issues. Fr. Peter Artiken, Fr. Prabhat, Fr. Robert, Fr. Siby, Sr. Mar, Sr. Sija, Ms. Rose, Mr. Ignatius Wunum, Mrs. Patricia Wunum and Mr. Tony Inikre were the resource persons. Fr. Valencius, Fr. Nico, Fr. Petrus, Fr. Romel, Fr. Tomas, Fr. Sandro and Fr. Jose presided over the Holy Eucharist as well as other prayer sessions.

The rally invited the youth to consider their vocation to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. The youth were called to be sentinels of peace, to love and respect one another and to stand in solidarity to quell the evil habits and practices in the society wounded by violence and conflicts. The rally helped the youth to repent of their sins and to ask forgiveness from God and one another. The conditions of marriage were sounded out to the youth so that they would be cautious in their choices of life. They were reminded of their freedom as well as roles and responsibilities of married life. They were invited to abstain from premarital sexual relationship and to lead holy and authentic lives. Violence, corruption, bribery, etc. affecting the daily life of the youth were stressed. The seminar on Christian spirituality were uplifting. They focused also on social media, money and industrial promotions ruining souls and bodies. The visit of the Sydney Catholic Youth was inspirational and moral boosting through their part-time assistance for cooking and feeding the youth. One afternoon was set aside for march from Vanimo town to Ilolo and another afternoon the youth went around cleaning Vanimo town and surroundings. The evenings were usually occupied with praise and worship, movies, dramas or other entertainment programs.

The rally concluded with the concelebrated Holy Mass presided over by His Excellency Most Rev. Cesare Bonivento PIME. In his concluding homily the Bishop invited the youth to go and bear witness to Jesus. Many priests and sisters working in the diocese were present for the thanksgiving Holy Mass. The presence of many priests and sisters all through the days of the rally was inspirational for the youth. The youth thanked the Bishop and the Diocese of Vanimo for sponsoring this unforgettable event in their life. With thanksgiving to God and all others who helped, the rally concluded on a very positive and happy note. The youth were very grateful to the Catholic Mothers from various parishes who under the leadership of Sr. Mar prepared and served their food. One youth said “I am going home with Christ in my heart. I am very happy now.” Another youth said “I will go home and help the youth in my parish to give up their bad habits and lead good lives.”


PNG/SI Bishops finalize policy on abuse

Br. Frank Hough

Director, Right Relationships in Ministry – Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands

Since October 2014, five training sessions for Contact Persons have been held in the main regions of Papua New Guinea: Southern coast, Northern coast, the Islands, the Highlands and Western Province. The role of the Contact Person is very important in implementing the Church Protocols, of dealing with cases of sexual abuse by Priests, Religious and Church workers. Where does one go when they know they have been sexually abused by a representative of the Catholic Church? The Contact Person is the one who will assist in preparing the complaint and sharing information about the Church process and other options. The Contact Person is also in many ways the face of the Church in its compassion and healing role.

Last July in Rome when Pope Francis met with six persons who had been abused by priests, he was expected to spend ten minutes with each one. He spent about thirty minutes with each and most of that time was the Pope listening. One of the victims had stopped praying since being abused and has started again since meeting the Pope. Earlier that day the six victims had attended a Eucharist with the Pope during which he apologized for the abuse. “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.”

The Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands has been developing its own procedures in response to incidents of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct for some time and the most recent edition has been published in 2014 under the title Protocols and Guidelines for Right Relationships in Ministry. They were developed by the Conference Board for Right Relationships in Ministry in 2012 and 2013, building on earlier approved policies. The Protocols and Guidelines had been approved by the PNGSI Bishops Conference and the Federation of Religious in 2013. Approval for Protocol One was granted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith based in Rome at the end of the same year.

Why is there a need for three documents when one may be enough? Protocol One presents procedures to follow when a person under the age of 18 (a minor) is sexually abused by a Priest. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has its own requirements as regards this matter. Protocol Two deals with issues of criminal sexual abuse carried out by a Priest, Religious or Church Worker. The Guidelines concern sexual misconduct by a Priest, Religious or Church Worker. A Church Worker is any person working on behalf of the Church, whether paid or voluntary. This includes Health workers, Teachers, Seminarians and secretarial staff.

Unfortunately sexual abuse takes place in all countries and in all cultures and for Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands there is no exception. The Catholic Church is seeking ways to assist those who have been abused, in a truly pastoral way, and to promote healing. It is seeking to determine the truth as regards those who have abused and to ensure as far as possible that it does not happen again. The Church wishes to be proactive in educating about Child Protection and Child Abuse and is fortunate to have Sr. Mary Claude Gadd and others actively promoting awareness and informing many of the importance of children and their appropriate care.

Soon to be available is the PNGSI Child Protection Policy that has been accepted by the Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Federation of Religious Executive. Hopefully this will encourage all Catholic Institutions and groups working with children to develop their own policies if not already completed.

How do we practically apply the Protocols and Guidelines? If you know someone who has been sexually abused by a Priest, Religious or Church Worker or there has been inappropriate behaviour, take the matter to the Contact Person for the Diocese. Generally there are two Contact Persons for each Diocese. They will advise on possible procedures and assist in completing a Complaint Form. They will be the link throughout the process. As in many aspects of life, taking the first step is the hardest.

Through abuse the Church has been wounded and the Church is called to assume more strongly its healing role. This takes place in reaching out to those abused, their families and others affected and also the abusers. Healing takes time and requires humility and walking together. Healing implies listening with much respect, as exemplified in Pope Francis. In the same week in Rome that the Pope met with victims of abuse, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, Ireland, concluded his keynote speech at the Anglophone Conference on care of the abused with the following words. “My ministry has greatly benefited from what I have learned – and at time learned in a hard way – from survivors. That is why I ask not just their forgiveness for what happened to them, but I am grateful to them for what they have done for me.”

Copies of the Protocols and Guidelines and the Child Protection Policy are available at CBC Waigani or through Diocesan Headquarters.


The Catechist and the Cardinal


Twenty years with Blessed Peter ToRot

By Bishop Rochus Tatamai MSC – Bereina

I have fond memories of the first pastoral visit of Pope John Paul II to Papua New Guinea in May 1984 in Port Moresby and Mount Hagen, then to Honiara in the Solomon Islands. I sang with the seminarians, who formed the papal choir along with the students of other institutions in Port Moresby and members of the lay faithful, who were all proudly dressed with papal colours of white tops and yellow-gold laplaps. The visit was on the occasion of the centenary celebrations for the foundation of the Catholic Church in PNG. The first Missionaries of the Scared Heart (MSC) in fact arrived in Rabaul on 29 September 1882 and at Yule Island on 4 July 1885.

But that successful pastoral visit was just a spiritual preparation for a second one, even more significant, for the beatification of Blessed Peter ToRot – Catechist and Martyr, eleven years later at the Sir John Guise Stadium – Port Moresby. Such a historical event definitely introduced a new dimension of excitement to the life, contribution and presence of the Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea.

The beatification itself was the culmination of the work of evangelisation that had begun with a first unsuccessful attempt by the French Marists and the Foreign Missions (now PIME) of Milan, Italy in 1847-’55, followed by the arrival of the MSCs and the SVDs (Society of the Divine Word) later in that century. Since then the Religious Congregations have made a significant contribution to the evangelisation and integral human development of the people of PNG and Melanesia, particularly in terms of education, health, pastoral care and infrastructures. The beatification ceremony was also a confirmation of the mutual collaboration between the missionaries and the new indigenous leadership, the time of harvesting of the fruits of a long labour of love. Peter ToRot is the first Melanesian to be beatified, a layman and just a second generation Catholic.

The Holy Father had a special message for everyone on that 17 January 1995. He addressed the Catholic faithful, all the other Christians, those who are suffering, and he made a special reference to the Constitution of the country and appealed to all people of good will. Everywhere he made a continual reference to Blessed Peter ToRot as the model for family life and an outstanding witness in difficult circumstances to the love of God and neighbors. I heard and still remember the following words of Pope St. John Paul II: “As you are aware, the central event of my visit is the beatification of Peter ToRot, Catechist and Martyr. You can be truly proud of your Melanesian brother. He has brought distinction and honor to your people. Peter ToRot is an outstanding example of family man, a Church leader, the person who is prepared to lay down his life for God and neighbor.”