By OGIA MIAMEL
NEWLY-appointed Catholic Church Cardinal Sir John Ribat says he never thought that one day he will be bestowed the title by the Pope, but is happy to accept the calling.
“If this is His will, the will of God, may He give me His grace and strength to fulfil this call. I am grateful to accept this call,” he said.
In an historic and milestone decision for PNG and the Pacific island nations by Pope Francis on Sunday at St Peter’s Square in Vatican City, Ribat was among the 17 appointed as cardinals.
He was relayed the message on Sunday evening by the Apostolic Nuncio to PNG and Solomon Islands Archbishop Kurian Mathew Vayalunkal in Port Moresby.
Ribat said the appointment came as a surprise.
“I am grateful to accept this call. It is really for the church, for our people here in PNG and Solomon Islands and also for the church in general,” he said.
“This appointment may be personal but really it is for the church and it is a great witness to the call of God and for all of us Christians.”
Ribat will travel to the Vatican with the other 16 new cardinals from around the world for the consistory on Nov 19, and the Holy Mass the next day where they will be elevated as new cardinals.
Ribat is PNG’s first cardinal and the sixth living cardinal in the Oceania region.
Vayalunkal said it was a moment of joy and satisfaction for everyone.
“Without any doubt I could say that this decision of the Holy Father 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 and the church in PNG is in the heart of His Holiness Pope Francis,” he said.
He said the appointment was a recognition of the Catholic Church in PNG and a great gift to the country during its Jubilee Year of Mercy and the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the dioceses in PNG and Solomon Islands.
The 17 new cardinals comprise four from Europe, three from the United States, three from Latin America, two from Africa, two from wider Asia, two from island nations, and one representing the church in the Middle East.
“The most important duty of a cardinal is to elect the Pope, but the responsibilities of the College of Cardinals have steadily evolved over the centuries. Cardinals are personally elected by the Pope,” Vayalunkal said.
“They give counsel to the Pope, contribute to the governance of the Church and as papal envoys. Some are officers of the Roman Curia while many serve as bishops of major diocese around the world,” he said.
Ribat was born on Feb 9, 1957 in the Volavolo Archdiocese of Rabaul, East New Britain.