Appointment a blessing for PNG


IRRESPECTIVE of which denomination one belongs to, this has to be one of the greatest news for Christians in Papua New Guinea.
We are celebrating today the elevation of one of our own – His Eminence Cardinal Sir John Ribat – in the Catholic Church hierarchy by Pope Francis, the head of the church in the world.
It is no mean achievement in one of the oldest religious institutions in the western world which today, has more than a billion members.
The Pope himself picks the cardinals. There are 17 in Sir John’s group named last Sunday at the Vatican.
He becomes the first in PNG, Solomon Islands and the region as a whole to be bestowed the title by the Pope.
For PNG, it is a reflection of the coming of age and maturing of the Christian faith.
Those here and abroad would have woken up on Monday morning in amazement and in awe at how far the nation has come.
Papua New Guineans have over the decades, through the hard work of missionaries, gradually accepted that Christianity is the light we need to light up our path to the future.
We have come to believe that in Jesus Christ comes our source of strength and comfort.
We believe that without the intervention of Christianity, the country would not be where it is today. Nothing could have been influenced the lives of our people.
Of course, we are not a perfect society. If one looks around, there is utopian set-up in sight. We still see our people fighting each other, killing each other, depriving our neighbours of their freedom rather than offering them love and comfort as the Bible teaches.
We still witness age-old practices disguised at times as part of tradition which directly clash with the teachings of the gospel.
But church leaders such as Cardinal Ribat have been relentless in their effort to educate everyone about the essence of the faith focused on simple messages such as “love thy neighbour as thyself” and “do unto others what you want them to do unto you”.
The Government understands the importance of the church’s influence on the lives of the people of PNG. It appreciates the huge task it is carrying out not only in spreading the gospel but also in providing services in education and health in areas the Government cannot reach around the country. The Government is thus allocating funds to support the church in its activities.
The Catholics are at the forefront of this. While congratulating the new cardinal, the nation must also thank the 2.35 million members of this Christian denomination for their invaluable contribution to national development and the spreading of the word of God.
They too deserve a pat on the back. Catholics are bound together by their faith in Jesus Christ and their obedience to the papacy.
They believe that the Pope is the successor to Saint Peter whom Christ appointed as the first head of His church.
Cardinal Ribat knows that being elevated to that high position in the Catholic Church brings with it more responsibility and authority.
He will be among the Pope’s close collaborators, giving him advice and up-to-date information on the church in this part of the world.
He will be responsible for briefing the Vatican on initiatives taken on global issues and concerns.
He becomes the important link between the Catholic Church in PNG and Solomons and the universal church.
Our experiences be they of joy or suffering and pain, plus our development in PNG and Solomons are now noted in a very intimate way by Pope Francis as well as the universal church.
Cardinal Ribat will certainly focus his attention on Pope Francis’ concern on “caring for our common home” environmental issues, refugees and immigrants, poverty in all forms and kinds, the “throw-away culture”,  the fight against the abuses of human rights, “the culture of death”, religious freedom as well as ecumenism.
It is an honour indeed that he has picked someone from PNG to be among his circle of advisers. It is a sign that this country is in the heart of His Holiness. The people of this beloved nation is in the heart of the Pope.
It comes at a time when the church in the country is preparing to celebrate its Jubilee Year of Mercy and the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the dioceses in PNG and the Solomon Islands.
Tenk yu tru, Cardinal Sir John Ribat. You have given the nation a good reason to celebrate.

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