A Message from Bishop McKenna from the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conference Oceania, PNG
Dear Friends in Christ,
For the past week, I have been representing you in Port Moresby at the Assembly of Catholic Bishops from the many local churches in Oceania.
Almost 100 bishops - from PNG, the Pacific island nations, New Zealand and Australia - meet every four years to share the realities of the diverse circumstances in which we are serving the mission of announcing and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This time, our communion with one another and the Bishop of Rome was clearly expressed in the presence among us of Pope Francis’ Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin. We were also joined by Australia’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Ms Melissa Hitchman.
For his opening address, the Cardinal chose to speak on the encyclical Laudato Sì. He emphasised Pope Francis’ message of the intimate connection of all things and how care for our planet comes from care for one another and acknowledgment of God our Creator.
The conversion of heart that this calls for was made specific in several expert presentations by scientists and economists. In our region, we already have climate change refugees, as the rising sea levels force people from their homes. This is a bigger problem in the western Pacific than in any of the other oceans. In Australia, we know the increasing incidence of El Niño droughts, longer bushfire seasons and more intense weather events.
The response to this crisis has been hampered by political paralysis both within nations and internationally. The resources of the small nations in our region are no match for the ambitions of big companies and bigger countries. A renewed conscience of social responsibility - care for one another - is a contribution that Christians can give, but only through a renewal of our own faith in God and our relationships with him and one another.
Of course, the bishops talked of many things: the formation in faith of our young people and the related renewal of seminary life and priesthood were at the top of the list. Each country has its own different strengths and weakness in these areas.
We heard too about the situation of the church in neighbouring West Papua, an area now ruled by Indonesia.
On Sunday, we went out to the nearby parishes, where we encountered the vibrant faith of the local church in Port Moresby. I asked them in St Martin’s, Morata, to pray for us, the people of the Diocese of Bathurst, that our hearts would keep turning back to God, who will raise us up in Jesus Christ.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop of Bathurst