By OGIA MIAMEL
PEOPLE of Rukis in the Kuli Parish in South-Anglimp district of Jiwaka were blessed on Mercy Sunday to have Papua New Guinea’s first cardinal of the Catholic Church, Sir John Ribat, as their main celebrant at Mass.
Accompanied by Mt Hagen Archbishop Douglas Young, the Jiwaka visit was also Sir John’s first official trip as cardinal to the highlands region.
Catholics travelled from as far away as the Southern Highlands and other neighbouring provinces to get a glimpse of the cardinal and shake his hand.
Rukis is a church situated in a scenic remote location. It is deemed special because it was built by the villagers themselves using timber from their trees and stones collected from the nearby Tuman River.
From afar, the building strongly resembles a magazine picture of a church in the Middle East.
According to community member and carpenter Johannes Koip, the area where the church was once held the community’s prayerhouse. In 2010, the idea to build a new church was mooted and land was cleared.
Without an initial funding source, the locals slowly began to put up the building as and when money and building material became available. It wasn’t until the church received a donation from a relative of their parish priest that work went forward in leaps and bounds. Donations also flowed in from members of the Rukis community living and working around the country.
Local people describe it as “God’s will” that led to the completion of the church.
On Oct 5, 2015, the Apostolic Nuncio to Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, Archbishop Kurian Mathew Vayalunkal, blessed and opened the church in the presence of a huge gathering of people.
The church was named Rukis Divine Mercy Shrine. The Archdiocese was grateful to the community for their building of the house of worship and in return set up funding for a new high school to be built in Rukis. The school will ease the burden on parents who have to send their children to schools that are far from the village.
Parish Priest Fr Bob Dan has plans for the area to expand and become a centre for meetings and gatherings, as well as project plans to complement the new church.
The Catholic post currently has kunai huts to accommodate the priest, sisters, and visitors.
The kitchen, mess and a prayerhouse are also made of materials from the bush.
Fr Bob says: “It really touched my heart, how men and women can make such strong and good work, this is like a fruit of the hard work of the people of PNG, and when we consecrate this shrine we didn’t expect Nuncio to come and consecrate this shrine but somehow something happened like this, we believe that God steered it in some ways, like He like this place so that the authority of the church will recognise this church, because this is important, and we are under the authority of the church and we are happy.”
Community Leader Paulus Pupa expressed his joy at the cardinal’s visit and urged young people to not ever ask for land compensation for the land on which the church stands.
Sir John told the people to be disciples of God’s mercy and to stand with God in this election period.
“As we go into election I’d like us to stand with God, we can walk with Christ and this election must promote peace, unity and this work of the election will be our commitment to give our country and follow God’s mercy and ways he showed today is special as we witness as we are disciples to God’s mercy,” Sir John said.
By OGIA MIAMEL