27/10/2012 17:52

Synod on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith

By Bishop Otto Separy - Aitape
Representative for Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands

Vatican City, October 2012

I bring you fraternal greetings from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, one of the four Conferences of Oceania in the Far East of the globe.

The Church in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands is relatively very young compared to most part of the world. In the coastal parts of the Conference, the task of evangelization began a little bit over 100 years ago while in some parts like the Highlands region of Papua New Guinea just about 50 to 20 years ago or even less.

The two countries of the Conference became politically independent in the mid 1970’s.  This also means that Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands are two very young countries on the world map.  We have our dreams, visions, aspirations, curiosities and expectations.

The Church is very young and vibrant: churches full on Sunday Masses, increase of priestly vocations and religious life for both men and women, dialogue and participation of lay people in church activities, high interest of parents wanting their children to be baptized, great number of teenagers receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist and Confirmation and significant number of Mass attendants receiving the Holy Communion.

However on the other hand, we also frequently experience numerous anti Christian behaviors in almost every sector of our society: domestic and sexual violence against women and girls , murder,  abuse of basic human rights and freedom by certain individuals and public institutions, high level of political corruption and white collar crime just to name a few.  These types of anti Christian behavior have created much fear, anger, hopelessness and anxiety on the vast majority of our people. Generally, most people are living in fear of being attacked or abused by other people, thus hiding behind securely locked doors and gated fences especially in towns and cities even during the day.

One then needs to ask, why are these anti Christian actions and attitudes taking place in our Christian society where almost 50% of the total population is Catholic and the other 50% belong to other mainline Churches and Pentecostal churches or sects?  What has gone wrong? The Melanesian people of Oceania are very much community orientated in every aspect of their existence since thousands of years, even to some extent up to the present time.  This could be both expressed and experienced in all forms of attitude and behavior either individually or in community. Weather it is morally acceptable or not, it is the question of human survival, the existence of the community, village or a tribe.  This type of mentality simultaneously poses threat to the Catholic faith and the moral order on one hand, and offers a potential for the Catholic faith to grow and mature on the other hand. The Church is faced and challenged with what many peace loving people describe as an “attitude problem” in our society.

In the current situation that is confronting the Church, the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith calls for two important factors that would strengthen and deepen our Catholic faith. First is the need for a deeper Christianization of our Melanesian culture in the light of the Gospel values and principles; and second is the demanding need for more profound teaching and explanation of the New Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Christianizing our traditional cultures.

Culture is the foundation of a human society. The culture forms and molds a person’s mindset and the subsequent behavior and attitude. However, in any culture both morally right and wrong attitudes and behaviors exist. In Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, the New Evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith calls for a deeper and sincere evangelization of our traditional Melanesian cultures so that the Gospel truths and values may penetrate deeper into our cultures. By doing so, the cultural factors and elements that are in conformity with the Christian faith could be upheld and promoted and those that do not could be left to diminish. Our Melanesian traditional cultures need to be purified with Christian truths and principles.  In other words, our traditional cultures have to be a living witness of the Risen Christ who is alive and active in our cultures.  When our culture is truly Christianized, only then can we experience profound and sincere respect for one’s human dignity,  and build solid unity, love, forgiveness, justice and truth in our families, homes, tribes, learning institutions, and public places.

Urgent need for catechizing our people.

The Church in Melanesia is faced with the challenge of providing the possibility and opportunity to the baptized Christians to have a profound personal experience and relationship with Jesus Christ.   The question of being true witnesses of Jesus Christ and to His Church is frequently compromised with personal ambitions and unnecessary fear and expectations.  This indicates that most of our people lack proper knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith.  The lay faithful, especially the younger generation needs to be given utmost priority to learn and appreciate the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This presupposes that all the pastoral agents (Evangelizers), under the leadership of the Diocesan Bishop and in the light of the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, should take this up as a matter of urgency in each diocese. The Evangelizers are called with humility and love as matter of divine calling to make time and space available to teach in depth to the people in parish centers, communities and learning institutions the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Rather than piling up the New Catechism books on the parish office shelves, they need to be given out to the people, perhaps on subsidized costs so that the people and especially our younger population could read, understand and appreciate the Catholic faith.

May Blessed Peter ToRot, the defender of Catholic marriage and family life and also the other martyrs and Saints of Oceania intercede for us for the successful and fruitful task of the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith in our two countries and the region of Oceania.  May we, according to the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania walk the Way of Jesus, live the Life of Jesus and tell the Truth of Jesus in our daily lives as Christians.

(CBC Communications 20121027 – giorgiolicini@yahoo.com)