Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania Newsletter – December 2012
President’s Message - from Archbishop John Dew
Dear Brothers in Christ
Greetings and good wishes as we come to the end of another year.
Advent is well underway and Christmas is close. All kinds of preparations for Christmas are
taking place, together with those events which mark the ending of the school and working
Advent is traditionally a time when Christians seek to discover what it means to wait for the
Lord and yearn for his coming. It is a time for truth, for admitting that there are corners of
our lives into which he has not come or where the light shines but dimly.
It can be hard to sustain a sense of expectancy. I often wonder if that is because we are
quite content with all the things which fill our minds, or because we let so many other things
distract or preoccupy us. Waiting for the Lord to fill a void does not have much point if our
lives are already filled with other things.
With the right preparation Advent can be a time of immense giftedness as we prepare for
the amazing Feast of the Incarnation. The word “Advent” is very closely related to the word
“adventure” - this is the time for us to be renewed in the adventure of living the Gospel, the
adventure of renewing our choice every day to live as a disciple of Jesus, and the adventure
and challenge of evangelization.
As you may know, I was invited to the Synod on the New Evangelisation as FCBCO President.
I was privileged to attend on your behalf and to have the opportunity to speak on the first
full day of the Synod on the situation of the Church in Oceania. This was no easy task as we
cover such a large and diverse area. However when we had the meeting of the FCBCO
Executive Committee in Noumea in August, I asked for some advice from your Conference
I include in this Christmas Newsletter a synopsis of what I said in the Synod Hall about
Oceania. It was a privilege to be part of the Synod and while it was a long process, I came
home with hope and, as Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham said, “with fresh wind
in my sails”. If you would like to see the full text of my address, please email me at
I take this opportunity to wish you all every blessing for Christmas and 2013.
XJohn A Dew
Archbishop of Wellington
XIII ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
“The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”
Synopsis of Intervention by Archbishop John Dew
At the Synod for Oceania 1998, Father Timothy Radcliffe, then Prior General of the
Dominicans coined the beautiful phrase “islands of humanity” when speaking of Oceania.
These “islands of humanity” are reflected in the post-Synodal Exhortation “Ecclesia in
Oceania” which was a call to the peoples of Oceania to focus anew their lives on Jesus
Christ: to walk his way, to tell his truth and to live his life.
There are “islands of humanity” in the dioceses and countries of the four Episcopal
Conferences that make up the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania.
EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE OF THE PACIFIC (CEPAC): More than 30% of the population of this
vast area was born since the Synod for Oceania. We see everywhere the vibrancy of youth,
e.g. large numbers who attended World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008, annual Téné
celebrations in New Caledonia, the youth festival in Samoa earlier this year, vocations to
priesthood and religious life with a missionary outreach beyond the CEPAC area. In these
young people we see a sincere and sometimes painful search for meaning and spirituality as
they bridge traditional cultural values and the excitement of the technological age with the
swipe of an ipad or smart-phone. It is sometimes difficult for them to resist the false
attractions of an aggressive media and entertainment industry. The CEPAC publication of
the Catechism of the Catholic Church and YouCat in both French and English is a valuable
tool in the formation of youth.
NEW ZEALAND: There is a new vitality of Catholic life through growing ethnic diversity, as a
result of the migration of peoples. The largest populations are from the Pacific Islands and
the Philippines, with smaller, yet very significant numbers of Catholics and catechumens
from the Middle East, Iraq, India, Korea, China and the Sudan. They are people who bring
their Catholic faith and their spirituality, as well as the experiences of war, poverty and
displacement that have forged their faith. New Zealand has a strong bicultural partnership
between the Maori and the Crown, founded on the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840. Today, this
Treaty provides “the moral basis for the presence of all other peoples in Aotearoa-New
Zealand.” (NZCBC, 1989)
AUSTRALIA: The Church has a strong engagement with society through adult education and
new forms of lay leadership in the church. Australia is the most advanced of all the
countries of the Federation with regard to media and technology. They have shared this
generously, e.g. in their support of the Catholic Radio network in the Solomon Islands; and
their ready sharing of electronic resources for evangelisation, education, and pastoral
formation. Over the past two years, the diocese of Broken Bay has offered e-conferences
that are streamed live throughout the world. At the first of these e-conferences, which I
attended in Wellington, New Zealand, I was fascinated to see the Australian hosts, via
satellite link, welcoming and speaking with participants from many Pacific countries, the
Solomon Islands, Philippines, India, and even as far away as Canada and the United
Kingdom. This new technology is a vital agent of the New Evangelisation.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA and the SOLOMON ISLANDS - are the leaders in research and
practical inculturation of the Gospel, as encouraged in the post-synodal exhortation,
Ecclesia in Oceania (#16-17). Their cultures mirror Gospel values of the sacredness of
human life and hospitality. Several international religious congregations - both clerical and
lay - have set up their formation programmes in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands
because of the strength of tertiary studies and inculturated formation available. There are
also significant populations in these countries who are hearing the Gospel message for the
The Churches of the Federation have been blessed by the example of saints who have been
part of our history, and who call us to live by the Gospel today for the New Evangelisation:
St Peter Chanel, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Blessed Peter To Rot, St Pedro Calungsod,
and we hope, “soon-to-be-beatified”, Suzanne Aubert.
These “islands of humanity” which we share in Oceania, however, are built on a volcanic
chain of unstable tectonic plates. Our lands occasionally become “islands of inhumanity” as
they struggle with natural disasters and difficulties of human origin.
CEPAC: All of the countries in the CEPAC region have been independent of colonial rule for
up to 50 years, or have achieved some form of internal self-government. However, some
are still struggling to choose a form of government that reflects both their cultural
uniqueness, and the demands of a modern democracy, e.g. Fiji and Tonga. This continuing
political instability occasionally erupts into violence, sometimes even with loss of life.
Several of these countries / dioceses are the most seriously affected by climate change, e.g.
the low-lying islands of Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Rotuma, Tongatapu, Northern Cook Islands,
and Eastern Polynesia. The “great splendour and beauty … of sea and land, water and
earth” (EO 6) is under serious threat, and even more so, those who live dependent of the
gifts of this land and sea. The concern of the church for the poor and most vulnerable will
need to include the particular needs of potential “environmental refugees”.
NEW ZEALAND: The saeculum is where “believers and non-believers interact and share in a
common humanity” (IL54). The “Courtyard of the gentiles” is a privileged place of
evangelisation. This is the positive side of secularisation. However, an aggressive
secularism, and the failure to acknowledge the transcendent dignity of the human person,
often blocks the dialogue with society on key bioethical and social issues, e.g. euthanasia,
abortion, and the definition of marriage. This secularism also presents a challenge for the
growing numbers of believers of other faiths who have made New Zealand their home, e.g.
Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs. They have often come from a more positive
encounter with Christians in their country of origin, and are scandalized by what they
experience in what they thought was “a Christian country.”
PAPUA NEW GUINEA and the SOLOMON ISLANDS: In a region of such vast ethnic and social
diversity, there are serious social justice questions: the breakdown of traditional cultural
values and social fragmentation, a high incidence of HIV-AIDS, oppressive poverty and
corruption, tension regarding access to natural resources, rapid urbanisation, ready resort
to violence, border disputes with Indonesia over West Papua. The strength of the
inculturation mentioned earlier will be tested in response to these areas of social justice.
AUSTRALIA: The vast “southern land of the Holy Spirit” also has major challenges in the task
of the new evangelisation, in the dialogue with a growing secularised society, in narrowing
the gap between rich and poor, in the promotion of the dignity of indigenous people and
asylum seekers, and in the same bioethical and social issues facing New Zealand. Australia
often suffers from the devastation of bush fires with great loss of life and property; these
fires are one of the effects of climate change. While natural disasters in Oceania are often
small on the global scale, they have an enormous impact on smaller nations and fragile
This reading of the signs of the times provides a context for the New Evangelisation “ so that
everyone may hear, understand and believe in God’s mercy destined for all people in Jesus
Christ.” (EO 18)
News from the Episcopal Conference
of the Pacific (CEPAC)
CEPAC is starting its own self-funding medical fund as from
1 January 2013. Some dioceses already have some form of
medical insurance, especially the francophone dioceses. Five dioceses have indicated that
they wish to join the new fund.
The fund will cover hospitalization in India, and fares to and from India. In India medical
costs are much cheaper than in Australia or New Zealand, so the fund can operate on a
much lower premium if people are treated in India.
The fund is open to religious congregations working in the CEPAC area. Some have shown
interest, but as yet none have committed to join the fund.
CEPAC has been rather behind most parts of the world in getting guidelines for sexual abuse
The Australian guidelines have been adapted to meet the conditions in the Pacific, and
approved by the permanent council of CEPAC. These adaptations are mainly because of the
scattered nature of the Pacific, where each diocese is a separate country, so we cannot have
national and state structures for dealing with accusations of abuse, as exist in Australia.
Dioceses at the moment are in the process of setting up their diocesan structures.
CEPAC has a plenary meeting of all its bishops only once every two years, because of the
great distances covered by the conference, and the high cost of air fares within the Pacific.
The next plenary meeting will be in Truk in the Caroline Islands in the Northern Pacific.
At the time this newsletter was being prepared Samoa had just been hit by Cyclone Evan,
with loss of life and huge damage to property, food crops and the environment. Cyclone
Evan also caused damage in Wallis and Futuna, mainly on the island of Wallis, as it passed
over the islands. The cyclone has now caused widespread devastation in Fiji, with thankfully
as yet no reports of loss of life, but widespread flooding and destruction. Caritas agencies in
the Pacific are mobilising to provide support for the affected countries.
News from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
It has been a graced year for this “Great Southland of the Holy Spirit”, as the Australian
Catholic Bishops Conference together with the people of Australia work together in faith.
At Pentecost 2012, an initiative called by the Australian Bishops entitled “A Year of Grace”
began in earnest, a gift that after much reflection and prayer the Bishops desired to give to
the Australian Church as a message of hope.
Exhorting the faithful and themselves to “start afresh from Christ”, the Year of Grace “has
been like a seed, being watered gently and growing with tender care. It comes from the
bishops' reflection over a number of years on the Apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (at
the start of the new millennium).
Each Diocese in Australia has a coordinator for the Year of Grace, and until Pentecost 2013
will look for ways to promote activities which deepen the experience of the faithful in their
experience of Christ. More information about this initiative can be found at
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference during 2012 has welcomed new Bishops
including Bishop Robert McGuckin (Toowoomba), Bishop Paul Bird CSsR (Ballarat), as well as
seeing the appointments of Archbishop Mark Coleridge to Brisbane and Timothy Costelloe
SDB to Perth. We also welcomed Bishop Robert Rabbat who replaced Bishop Issam Darwich
who retired from the Melkite Eparchy last year. Archbishop John Bathersby (Brisbane)
retired late last year and Archbishop Barry Hickey (Perth) retired this year, as did Bishops
Pat Power (Canberra Auxiliary) and Peter Connors (Ballarat).
We farewelled Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio, as he was appointed to
Jerusalem, and welcome Archbishop Paul Gallagher who will come to Canberra as Nuncio in
the new year after being Nuncio in Guatemala.
The Bishops Conference this year has hosted conferences on a wide range of topics
including New Media in Communicating the Word: Timeless Messages, New Media held in
May; The New Evangelisation in PROCLAIM held in August; Youth Ministry in the Australian
Catholic Youth Ministry Convention (ACYMC) held in September; and Migrants and Refugees
in I have heard them crying out held in December.
In November 2012, the Australian Government announced that there would be a Royal
Commission into the Institutional handling of child sexual abuse. This has been a significant
moment in the life of the Australian Church and an important challenge to the Bishops on
how they might learn from the mistakes of the past and lead more effectively in the future.
While the Australian Church has had protocols in place since the 1990’s for responding to
allegations, there is still much hurt and pain in the community. The ACBC has indicated its
openness and willingness to do whatever possible to participate in this process. The Catholic
Church’s leaders have recognised that the Royal Commission will demand a sophisticated
and co-ordinated response across the country.
To that end the Church has established a national coordinating body, to be referred to as
the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, to oversee the Church’s engagement with the Royal
Commission and the pastoral and other ramifications that have arisen from the sexual abuse
Australia’s 42 Bishops continue to seek ways to enliven the participation of people in the
Catholic Church in this country and pray that the spirit continues to bless our work.
News from Catholic Bishops Conference
of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands
There have been no changes in bishops in Papua New Guinea and
Solomon Islands in 2012. In the first part of the year Archbishop Santo
Rocco Gangemi took up his appointment as Apostolic Nuncio to Papua
New Guinea and Solomon Islands, replacing Archbishop Francisco Padilla who was
appointed as Apostolic Nuncio in Tanzania.
The biggest event in Papua New Guinea this year has been the elections for a new
Parliament. The election process in Papua New Guinea often creates conflict and upheaval,
which causes anxiety among the people. Vote-buying and other forms of corruption of the
process are very hard to stamp out, although there are many NGOs and other countries
which are helping with electoral education and monitoring. The Church has played a role in
the process of educating people about their responsibilities as voters. A culture of honesty
needs to be developed among the candidates and the voters so vote-buying does not
determine who is elected.
At the initiative of the bishops of the Highlands representatives of Catholic communities in
the region met for a week in December to review the election. Participants included lay
people, priests, religious, Caritas coordinators, researchers from the Melanesian Institute,
election observers and the bishops. The reason for the review was to evaluate the 2012
election and see what the Church can learn for the future.
The review found that the electoral process challenged the faith of many people, with very
strong temptations to take part in corrupt electoral processes. Many ignored what their
faith was telling them. it was evident from the review that there needs to be a moral
transformation and renewed critical awareness among the people, and some cultural values
such as the “bigman culture” clashed with the Western cultural practices such as a secret
As a result of the review the Church has reconfirmed the need to continue to work with its
own people about morality in the election process, and to work closely with the government
and NGOs to empower people to take ownership of the election. Attention also needs to be
paid to the active participation of women in all aspects of elections.
Caritas Papua New Guinea focused on monitoring “Campaign Finance” during the elections,
and has since released a report on its findings. They found that campaign financing was not
transparent, and asked if the laws governing “money in politics” are clear enough to be
enforced. Caritas considers that the election was a far cry from being free and fair, and are
advocating for change.
A number of bishops, priests and religious travelled to Germany during the year at the
invitation of Missio Aachen. They were asked to take part in the Missio campaign which
precedes World Mission Sunday in October, to share their personal experiences and
commitment. The theme was “Papua New Guinea as a society between tradition and
modernity and the challenge for the Church”. German Catholics knew very little about
Papua New Guinea and were surprised to find that it is now about 95% Christian. The
personal witness of the sisters, priests and bishops seemed to have quite an effect on the
people they met, especially young Germans.
In May and June 22 bishops of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands went on the ad
limina visit to Rome. Bishop Peter Ramsden, Anglican Bishop of Port Moresby, was invited to
accompany the bishops because of the good relationship between the Anglican and Catholic
Churches in our countries. The bishops were invited to the Anglican Centre in Rome for
dinner, prayer and for sharing about the great moments in the history of the Catholic
Church and the Anglican Communion. The ad limina was a very good time for the bishops,
with many interesting and useful discussions and the opportunity to share the Mass
together in places of great significance.
In November during a fundraising dinner in Port Moresby the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill
pledged a large government contribution to the building of a new office building and chapel
for the Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands Bishops Conference. The government is
making the contribution in recognition of the “vital role” the Church plays in the
development of the country. The Church is the largest non-government body to provide
services in PNG especially in the fields of education (about three thousand institutions from
elementary to university level) and health (more than 350 treatment centres in the cities
and rural areas).
The new building will house the offices of the 22 Commissions of the CBC along with the
General Secretariat. It will also include a Chapel, a Conference Room and ten self-contained
rooms for Bishops and Commission Secretaries travelling to the capital city for meetings of
evaluation and planning. It will replace the present congested and decaying smaller building
at the Gordons suburb in Port Moresby.
The Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands is moving towards
developing a common pastoral plan. A tentative date has been set for a Second General
Assembly in September 2013. (The first General Assembly in 2004 involved Papua New
Guinea only.) The preparation is already under way with the evaluation of the National
Pastoral Plan 2004-2010. The new plan will be named the Conference Plan to recognize the
involvement of Solomon Islands.
News from the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference
Earlier this year Bishop Peter Cullinane retired as Bishop of Palmerston
North and was succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Charles Drennan. Bishop
Cullinane has remained a member of the Conference as he has continued
with the education portfolio.
The April meeting of Conference was held in Christchurch, which was the first time all the
bishops had been together in Christchurch since the devastating earthquakes. During the
meeting the bishops were taken around the city in a van by the Diocese’s Earthquake
Recovery Coordinator, Matt O’Connell, to see some of the effects of the earthquake and
progress on the recovery. The havoc wrought in the eastern suburbs of the city has not been
as prominent in the media as the effects on the central city. It was a sobering drive through
uneven streets and past twisted homes which had sunk below street level, and to a bare site
where a Catholic school had been demolished due to damage. One of the bishops remarked
that they had set out in the van there had been cheerful conversation but they became
more and more silent as the tour progressed.
There have been huge increases in insurance premiums for buildings across the country
following the Christchurch earthquakes, affecting churches, schools, parish and other
Church properties. In the Wellington Archdiocese the assessment of all Church property
against earthquake standards has resulted in some churches, presbyteries and halls being
vacated and others able to be used but in need of strengthening work. Christchurch Diocese
is working on a huge property programme resulting from the earthquakes, and on a plan to
reorganize their parishes due to the shifts in population which occurred as result of the
earthquakes. Bishop Barry Jones and his people are held in great awe and prayed for
regularly throughout the country because they are tackling this massive task in a faith-filled
and practical manner which is very inspiring.
Planning is underway to commemorate in January the 175th anniversary of the first Mass in
New Zealand, which was celebrated by Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier at Totara Point in
the Auckland Diocese. In 2014 there will a commemoration with other Christian Churches of
the bicentenary of the first preaching of the Gospel in New Zealand.
Msgr Peter Jeffrey of the Diocese of Sandhurst took up the post of Rector at Holy Cross
Seminary at the beginning of the year, and has ably shepherded the seminary community
through the year. There is continuing discussion about the need to add to the seminary
accommodation as it is close to capacity. The project will begin with the obtaining of the
necessary consents, but the actual building will only start when it is clear that the upward
trend in numbers is continuing.
The NZCBC prepared a guidance document titled “The Catholic Identity of Caritas Aotearoa
New Zealand” which Caritas received earlier this year. The document is being used as the
basis for Caritas strategic planning and was timely with the arrival of a new CEO and the
changes in government funding in the last three years. A much greater focus by Caritas
Aotearoa on Oceania has resulted from the convergence of these events. Conference is now
preparing guidance documents for its national bodies involved Catholic education.
After a number of years of discussion with other churches a common Baptism certificate has
been agreed with the Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian churches. The wording on the
certificate includes the Trinitarian formula, which was the point of developing a certificate
which could attest that a person had been baptised using the formula. The certificate states
that the four churches involved recognize it as evidence of Christian Baptism.
The Catholic Institute of Aotearoa New Zealand has nearly finished its first year of
operation, bringing together the various diocesan and national bodies involved in providing
Catholic tertiary courses. The importance of establishing the Catholic Institute is evident in
statistics which show there is work to be done in improving the qualifications of teachers of
Religious education in Catholic schools, and a long term plan is being put in place to address
these issues. Dr Anne Tuohy, a New Zealander who has worked for some time at Australian
Catholic University, is an excellent leader of the Institute.
Like a number of other Conferences around the world the NZCBC has had to respond to the
societal pressure to open marriage to gay and lesbian couples. The bishops recently
presented their submission on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill to the
Parliamentary Select Committee. Approval of the Bill will be by conscience vote but the
strong vote in favour of the Bill at its first reading is not encouraging. A Private Members Bill
proposing the legalization of euthanasia is in the ballot to come before the Parliament and
work is being put into education and building networks to oppose euthanasia.
Year of Faith activities and recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council
are primarily taking place in dioceses, the decision having been made to have the primary
focus at diocesan and parish level.
The NZCBC has been working on a new pastoral priorities plan for the national activities of
the Church in New Zealand. The New Evangelization will be a key focus for some years to
come. The new pastoral priorities plan, when completed, will bring new initiatives in a
number of areas, and enable work to be done nationally on making the New Evangelization
a reality which is both exciting and challenging.
Congratulations to ….
Bishop Leslie Tomlinson on his appointment as Bishop of Sandhurst
Bishop Robert McGuckin on his appointment as Bishop of Toowomba
Bishop Paul Bird CSsR on his appointment as Bishop of Ballarat
Archbishop Mark Coleridge on his appointment as Archbishop of
Bishop Charles Drennan on his appointment as Bishop of Palmerston North
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB on his appointment as Archbishop of Perth
Archbishop Santo Rocco Gangemi on his appointment as Apostolic Nuncio in Papua New
Guinea and Solomon Islands
Archbishop Paul Gallagher on his appointment as Apostolic Nuncio in Australia.
Thanks to …
Archbishop Barry Hickey of Perth who retired on 20 February 2012
Bishop Peter Cullinane of Palmerston North who retired on 22 February 2012
Bishop Patrick Power of Canberra-Goulburn who retired on 8 June 2012
Bishop Peter Connors of Ballarat who retired on 1 August 2012
Rest in Peace …
We pray for the repose of the soul of Bishop Hervé-Maria Le Cléac’h SS.CC, Emeritus Bishop
of Taiohae e Tefenuaenata, who died on 14 August 2012.