The health of priests, finding qualified teachers for seminaries and the introduction of the Roman Missal were among the topics discussed by the Executive Committee of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO) when it met in Papua New Guinea recently.
At the meeting, held at Port Moresby from 24-25 March, the Committee members expressed their solidarity with Bishop Barry Jones and the people of Christchurch, following the February earthquake. Bishop Jones is one of the two New Zealand bishop representatives on the Committee, but was unable to attend the meeting due to the situation in Christchurch. Archbishop John Dew of Wellington is the other New Zealand bishop representative and is also President of the FCBCO.
There are two bishops from each of the four Conferences on the Executive. Bishops Chris Prowse and Brian Finnigan represent Australia, Bishops Chris Cardone and Rochus Tatmai represent Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, and Archbishop Michele Calvet and Bishop Soane Mafi represent the CEPAC. Executive Officer of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, Anne Dickinson, acts as the FCBCO secretary.
The bishops discussed the average age of death for priests in the Pacific, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, which is much lower than in Australia and New Zealand. Lifestyle and access to medical assistance are contributing factors.
The problem of finding qualified and suitable people to teach in the region’s seminaries was also considered, along with the possibility of sharing personnel.
Information about the introduction of the Roman Missal in Australia and New Zealand was shared, and the needs of other parts of Oceania where English is one of the languages used were considered. Archbishop Michele Calvet provided information about the French translation process, which is some way behind that of the English translation.
Progress was made on the initial planning for the next Assembly of all the bishops of Oceania, which will be held in New Zealand in 2014.
The bishops visited the Port Moresby Cathedral and the Catholic Theological Institute at Bomana, which trains many of Papua New Guinea’s priests, both diocesan and religious. A new seminary has been developed in Solomon Islands and its first group of priests was ordained last year.
On the last night the bishops concelebrated Mass with a number of priests in the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, which is in the grounds of the Don Bosco Technical Institute. Archbishop John Dew was the main celebrant, and the music was provided by the students from the Technical Institute and other schools nearby.
The next meeting of the FCBCO Executive Committee will be held in New Caledonia in May 2012.