By OGIA MIAMEL
ARCHBISHOP of Port Moresby Sir John Ribat says his appointment as a Cardinal of the Catholic Church by Pope Francis on Sunday came as a surprise.
And he will not forget the call he received on Sunday evening from the Apostolic Nuncio to PNG and Solomon Islands Archbishop Kurian Mathew Vayalunkal while at his home in Port Moresby.
“This appointment came to me as a surprise. I never thought of it and I never dreamt of it and it was not in my mind,” he said.
“Last night (Sunday), the Nuncio His Excellency the Archbishop Kurian called me at 8.30pm and he mentioned to me that he has an urgent message to give to me.
“He asked what time I will be going to rest in the night. I said 10pm or 10.30pm. Then he said he’ll come over.
“When he came, I welcomed him (and secretary Fr Nicolas). I brought them into the house and we were sitting around the table. Then he held out his hand to congratulate me. I asked what for?
“Then he said you have been appointed by His Holiness Pope Francis.”
Pope Francis on Sunday announced the appointment of 17 new cardinals from around the world.
Sir John never thought that one day he would be given the title and called to be of service to the Pope in leading the Catholic Church.
Ribat hails from East New Britain and was born on Feb 9, 1957 in the Volavolo Archdiocese of Rabaul.
After attending elementary school in Naveo and Volavolo, he attended the Malabunga Government High School in Rabaul.
He later completed high school at the Minor Seminary St Peter Chanel of Ulapia.’
He entered the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart on Feb 2, 1979.
He studied philosophy and theology at the Holy Spirit Seminary in Bomana, Port Moresby and was ordained as a priest on Dec 1, 1985.
After the ordination and until 1991, he served in various parishes of the dioceses of Bereina.
He attended training at the SAIDI centre in Manila. From 1992 to 1996 he was the Master of Novices.
In 1997 he was parish priest. In 1998 to 2000, he was the Master of Novices in Suva, Fiji.
He was later elected to the titular see of Macriana minor and was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Bereina on Oct 30, 2000.
In Feb 11, 2001 he received episcopal ordination. He served until Feb 12, 2002 and was appointed Bishop of Bereina.
In April 16, 2007 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Coadjutor Archbishop of Port Moresby. In March 26, 2008 he became Archbishop of the Metropolitan See.
He was President of the Episcopal Conference of PNG and Solomon Islands from 2011 to 2014. From 2014, he was the chairman of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania.
He was awarded a knighthood by the Queen and the Government.
Apostolic Nuncio to Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands Archbishop Kurian Mathew Vayalunkal said cardinals were personally selected by the Pope.
He said Pope Francis decided to choose cardinals from all over the world to express the universality of the church which proclaimed and witness to the Gospel of the Good News of the Mercy of God in every corner of the earth.
While historically cardinals have come from certain larger cities known for their Catholic populations or global importance, Francis has sought to diversify the representation in the group by choosing men from places long underrepresented or even not represented in the College of Cardinals.
The 17 new cardinals include four from Europe, three from the US, 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 Holy Father will elevate the new cardinals at a formal ceremony at the Vatican known as a consistory on Nov 19 and the vigil of the conclusion of the Jubilee year for mercy on Nov 20, 2016.
Pope Francis will then celebrate the concluding Mass of the Jubilee the next day with the new cardinals.
Archbishop Ribat will travel to the Vatican to join the other 16 newly appointed cardinals for the consistory.
By OGIA MIAMEL