PNG invites Pope

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PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill has invited Pope Francis ― the head of the Catholic Church in the world ― to visit Papua New Guinea.
O’Neill was responding yesterday to a message of “greetings to the people of PNG” from the Pope.
The message was conveyed to O’Neill by Sir John Ribat, the Archbishop of Port Moresby, recently bestowed the title of Cardinal, and Archbishop Kurian Mathew Vayalunkal, the Apostolic Nuncio to PNG and the Solomon Islands.
Sir John was among 17 from around the world bestowed the title of Cardinal by Pope Francis last Sunday at the Vatican.
O’Neill said the Apostolic Nuncio “extended the greetings from His Holiness, Pope Francis, to the people of our nation”.
“I asked the Apostolic Nuncio to pass on our thanks to the Holy Father for elevating one of our sons to such an important position in the Catholic Church. This is an honour for our people and we are proud of our first Cardinal,” he said.
“Following Cardinal Ribat’s elevation, I hope that we will be able to receive Pope Francis in Papua New Guinea.”
“We will continue a dialogue with representatives of the Vatican to formalise this offer for the Pope to visit.”
He said Pope John Paul II had visited the country on two occasions.
“A Papal visit brings people together, and unites them through their commitment to God and the church, regardless of which denomination they are from,” he said.
O’Neill invited the two men to deepen the work of the Catholic Church in the country.
“We want to be a strong partner with our church because our priorities are the same. Together, we will continue to invest money and time in our core policy areas of healthcare and education,” he said.
“These areas underpin the social structure of our nation and we must continue to strengthen our communities.
“For many decades, the Government did not do much in rural and remote areas, and it was the church that stepped in to help our people.”
He said this was the case in his district in Southern Highlands.
“When I was growing up, there was no Government support and this continued for many years after Independence,” O’Neill said.
“Over the past five years, the Government has been strengthening our work with the churches in these areas and this is delivering benefits to our people.
“We thank the Catholic Church and other churches for the partnerships that we have built, and I know they will only get stronger.”

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