Blessing of the new Catholic Bishops Conference building
Abigail Seta and Fr Ambrose Pereira sdb
Gordons, Port Moresby: The Catholic Bishops Conference (CBC) of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands was blessed and opened on Monday, 17 September 2018.
Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neil, His Eminence, Cardinal John Ribat MSC, His Excellency, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Kurian Mathew Vayalunkal, Bp Rochus Tatamai MSC, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and Lady Veronica Somare were among the dignitaries present. Priests, religious, catholic faithful and several invited guests were present for the occasion.
The blessing commenced at 11 am, with a hymn ‘It is good to give Thanks.’ The keys of the building were then handed over to Bp Rochus Tatamai MSC, President of CBC by Brad Smith, CEO of Cord Associates. Following the scripture reading, 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, His Eminence, Cardinal John Ribat blessed Holy Water and sprinkled it at the main entrance. At the entrance the ribbon, was jointly cut by the Prime Minister, Hon. Peter O’Neil, Cardinal John Ribat MSC, Archbishop Kurian Mathew Vayalunkal and Bp Rochus Tatamai MSC symbolising the opening of the building.
A plaque commemorating the event was unveiled by Bp Rochus. Cardinal John Ribat and Archbishop Kurian Vayalunkal sprinkled the two new buildings with Holy Water while the guests proceeded into the building.
In the newly blessed conference hall, a video presentation highlighting the history of CBC was screened. Fr Victor Roche SVD, outgoing General Secretary of CBC, gave a brief history of the building, and the reason for its construction. He thanked the contractors, Cord Associates, the bishops and all the people who contributed to the success of the project.
“The increase of CBC commissions and staff members required that a new building be built. The present buildings were not adequate and are nearly 52 years old”, said Fr. Victor.
Bishops had to reside and travel from different parts of the city. Hence, the idea of a new building for CBC was uppermost in the minds of the Catholic Bishops for a long time. The first plans for a new building were drawn up in 2010. A fire on the 23rd November 2013 required that a new plan be drawn up. Architectural drawings by Mr Peter Mildner, were advertised and CORD Builders was chosen from 12 bidders. Mr Brad Smith, CEO of Cord, Mr Don Atchison, Cord supervisor and Francis Natera, CBC supervisor commenced the building on the 25th July, 2017. 13 months of hard work and the building received the occupancy certificate on the 13th September, 2018. The total cost of the building is 12.22 million. A fund-raising dinner was held on the 25th November, 2015, the Prime Minister’s office contributed 3 million, MISSIO Aachen donated 1.08 million, other leaders and generous donors contributed 1.22 million.
Fr Victor also expressed his gratitude to all who worked closely with him. “I wish to thank the Apostolic Nuncio, Bishops, Commission secretaries, staff of CBC, priests, religious, Prime Minister, leaders of the government and other churches, NGOs, lay leaders, supporters and clients of CBC and all who have journeyed with me at CBC”, he said. He welcomed Fr Giorgio Licini PIME, the next Secretary General. He leaves for a Sabbatical year of rest, reflection, refreshment and renewal.
Bp Rochus Tatamai MSC, CBC President also gave a speech and acknowledged the commissions and secretaries of the CBC. “We have made big achievements and it demonstrates that we are together,” he said.
Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, in his speech, acknowledged the role of the Catholic Church in the development of the country. “The Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands have through their efforts, made a contribution to keep alive the teaching of Christ in the country,” the Grand Chief shared.
Prime Minister, Hon. Peter O’Neil congratulated the architect and the builders who have constructed a wonderful building. “It will not only serve the Church but also serve our people in Papua New Guinea and in the Solomon Islands. It is important that the government continues to support the work of the Church. The government and the church must work hand in hand in partnership to not only develop our country but to also provide spiritual guidance for our people and making sure that they have the services that they deserve in education and health,” said the Prime Minister.
At end of the program, the guests were permitted a tour of the new buildings with refreshments served to conclude the program.
The new CBC building has two blocks. ToRot Block (Building A) has a reception room, a 100-person conference hall, Office space with 25 workstations and 11 living rooms. Mazzuconi Block (Building B) has a fireproof archive room, office space for 15 workstations, communications and recording studio possibilities and a future TV station, parking space and two residential flats.