Year 2004 very good for PNG

The year 2014 has been very good for Papua New Guinea. In Education PNG is nearly achieving Number 2 of the Eight (8) United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which is Universal Primary Education. It is still a challenging task for the Government and other NGOs to reach the target. About 500,000 school aged children are not going to school yet. But we are getting there. The Government also helped the churches with K25 million through the Department of Planning and Church State Partnership (CSP) program to fund projects in Education and Health.

In Health, PNG is gradually winning its fight against Malaria according to Dr. James Wangi. 1.6 million cases were recorded annually and about 600-700 died every year from Malaria. But this figure has decreased significantly thanks to the successful partners.

There are other developments in the country: better roads; more schools and health centres; more human resources and better equipped. LNG and other natural resources bring in wealth to our economy. Government is better focused with regard to development.

PNG was ranked second among 37 countries of the western Pacific region in Tuberculosis (TB) prevalence and death rates. About 14,000 people were affected annually and more than 4,000 people die every year. We have a long way to go.

With regard to Corruption, PNG ranks 145 out of 174 countries in 2014 (Corruption Perception Index collated by Transparency International) while it ranked 154 in 2011. It is good to know that many prominent leaders who were involved in corruption are behind bars and others are facing justice. There is a slight improvement but a lot to be desired.

Law and order is still a big problem for the country. Two disciplinary forces themselves had their problems and are not resolved yet. Violence against women and sorcery-related crimes are on the increase.

The results of the 2011 census were published this year. PNG has a population of 7.24 million and 96% are Christians.

I pray that God bless the leaders of our country, of the churches and of other religions in PNG.

I wish everyone A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR, 2015.

Fr.Victor Roche, SVD – General Secretary, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Papua new Guinea & Solomon Islands.


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]


Wisdom in nature

By Abp Steve Reichert OFM Cap – Madang

During the past year I’ve travelled by plane from Madang to Wewak and back many times. It is an enjoyable trip. What a beautiful country we live in.

Following the coastline one sees the high mountains inland, the vast forests, the rivers and the small villages here and there in the bush.

Then suddenly the mighty Sepik River appears, confidently strolling out of the hills onto the plain, meandering toward the sea. But just before it accomplishes its mission of depositing its contents into the ocean, it turns back on itself, as if it has lost courage at the last minute.   It twists and turns in indecision before finally making its way through the sandy beach to the sea. And I said to myself, I’m like that sometimes. Many of us are like that sometimes and often our fear and indecision is a cause for doing wrong and hurting others.

Ramu River – It is bold, dirty and undisciplined. It is selfish and greedy. It eats away at the banks and the foundations of the village houses. It builds up sand and silt like so many excuses until its only escape is to slink off in another unplanned direction. We all know people like that. But sometimes we also see him or her when we look in the mirror. How many of us fail to meet the challenges of life with honesty? It’s easier to run away from responsibility and accountability. We need wisdom and strength.

Manam Volcano – white smoke and black smoke – arrogant, moody, sometimes angry and dangerous. It is not reliable.

Karkar Island – Elderly, quiet, stable, settled and generous. It’s like everyone’s grandmother.

And then comes the broken coastline of Madang – the little islands and lagoons, the coral reefs – inviting, peaceful and compassionate.

We humans are created in the image and likeness of God, but sin makes us less beautiful than we are meant to be. But there is hope for us. Wisdom that comes from loving God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, will restore God beauty in us. And loving our neighbour as ourselves no matter what, strengthens the gift of wisdom within us.

As you circle to land on the sea side of the airport you might catch a glimpse of Long Island in the distance to the Southeast – across an angry sea to this volcanic island which erupted 300 years ago and made its mark on the world, causing a time of darkness. It is too far away to see it in detail. But with the help of modern technology, Google Earth, one can see the great beauty of this volcanic island.

 Long Island features a beautiful blue lake in its spent crater – and as you scroll closer and closer to it, the name of the lake pops up on your computer – Lake Wisdom. Wouldn’t it be great if we could drink thewater of that lake and gain wisdom? (DWU Foundation Day Mass – 22 August 2014)


Bible Sunday – 3 Aug 2014

By Fr Victor Roche SVD – CBC Gen Sec 

In PNG we will have Bible Sunday on 3rd August this year. In other countries Bible Sunday is celebrated on a day chosen by the Bishops’ Conference of each country. It is good that we promote this day to make it as fruitful as possible.

You can have also have a Bible Week or Bible Month.

Bible Sunday or Bible Week or Bible Month will:

  • Stimulate the faithful to read the Bible.
  • Help the people understand the biblical dimension of the Church, Sacraments and other activities.
  • Fortify the faithful against the propaganda of the sects and increasing fundamentalism.
  • Offer nourishment for the spiritual life of the communities.
  • Help towards a better understanding of the Liturgy of the Word in the Mass.

 Suggested activities for Bible Sunday or Bible Week:

 Bible Song Competition                            For different groups such as:

  1. Bible Poster Competition                          Parents, Youth Groups, Catholic Women,
  2. Bible Story Writing                                     Students, School Children etc.
  3. Bible Quiz
  4. Basic Bible Seminar
  5. Bible Drama

 Special activities for the Bible Sunday Mass:

 Þ      Entrance procession with the Book of the Gospels/Bible and traditional dance

Þ      Bible Enthronement

Þ      A father, mother and a child of a family can bring the Bible in a traditional way and they can read the first and the second readings to highlight the importance of the family.

Þ      Bible drama or mime.

Þ      Well-prepared homily on the ‘Word of God’.

Þ      Prayers of the faithful by people representing different sections of the people.

Þ      Bible collection (which goes to support the Catholic Biblical Apostolate in PNG/SI)

 “Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for the Christian faithful” (Dei Verbum 21)

Suggested Readings for Bible Sunday


Seek the LORD while he may be found,

       call upon him while he is near;

7    let the wicked forsake their way,

       and the unrighteous their thoughts;

     let them return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on them,

       and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

8    For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

       nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.

9    For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

       so are my ways higher than your ways

       and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10  For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

       and do not return there until they have watered the earth,

     making it bring forth and sprout,

       giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

11  so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

       it shall not return to me empty,

     but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

       and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

The Word of God. Thanks be to God..


Response: Go out to all the world and proclaim the Good News.

1. The words of the Lord are true

and all his works dependable (response)

2. The word loves what is righteous and just;

his constant love fills the earth (response)

3. The Lord created the heavens by his command;

The sun, moon and stars by his spoken word. (response).


But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

The Word of the Lord

Alleluia, alleluia,

Your Words are spirit and life; you have the message of eternal life.



A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John: 6:35-51.

35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

41Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Or Mk 4:1-9


The law above all!

Bp. Arnold Orowae

President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference

Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands

Honesty and commitment to the common good are essential ingredients of worthy politics. Moreover in a true democratic system political authority is accountable to the people it represents. It seems to us that at this time worthy politics and democracy are at risk in Papua New Guinea.

No person, including members of parliament, is above the law.  There is the one law for everyone in Papua New Guinea. Yet recent events, with accusations, dismissals and political manouverings appear to disrespect the Constitution and the rule of law.

Our people continue to search for security and prosperity in a socio-political scene that seems even more confusing and complex.

Instability and oppressive law enforcement reflecting the interest of a few is hurting our entire society. If this continues it will be detrimental to the soul of the nation. Investors confident and a good image of our nation will be lost.

“The truth will make you free” (John 8:32). As Church leaders we call for a peaceful and truthful resolution of the current political turmoil. The values we refer to are found not only in the Holy Bible, but are expressed in civil law, yet have their origin in God.  In God’s name we call on the elected leaders of this nation to give priority to the respect for law, the common good and future of our nation.


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.


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


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.


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).