Port Moresby (Agenzia Fides) - The unity of a variety of tribes, languages, and Melanesian customs in Papua New Guinea under the sign of the Virgin Mary: this is the spirit of the Marian Sanctuary that is in its final phases of construction and that will be officially inaugurated in Port Moresby on May 24, 2008.
“The Virgin Mary is a powerful symbol of dignity. Hence the need for a church to honour the Blessed Virgin Mary, and highlight the fact that women need a symbol of dignity,” say local Church sources. In a country where domestic violence, abuse, and prostitution constitute a social plague, “a new Sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin is a strong and effective sign of faith, hope, and charity,” as well as the assured protection of the Virgin Mary for the people of Papua, explained Archbishop Brian Barnes, Archbishop of Port Moresby.
The building is being given its final touches. Its construction has been under the guidance of the Salesians of St. John Bosco. The large windows are adorned with paintings of saints, blessed and others, from various historical periods: Bl. Peter Channel, of Oceania, Bl. John Mazzucconi, martyr, Bl. Peter To Rot, Papua New Guinean catechist martyred for his faith, Bl. Mother Teresa, Bl. Pope John Paul II who visited PNG, Msgr. Stanislcaus Vergus, first Bishop of Bereina, St. Mary MacKillop, first saint of Oceania. Maria Goretti, Dominic Savio, and various others. At the back of the shrine, there is also the dream of Don Bosco at the age of 9, and on the sides and on the altar, Melanesian decorations can be seen. The Eucharistic chapel downstairs holds a tabernacle donated by Pope Benedict XVI.
A large part of the Sanctuary’s construction has been funded by the Superiors in Rome, the Holy See, Episcopal Conference of Italy, and other benefactors, while an amount was also donated from within the country. Many of the local faithful also offered their own time and work to help in its construction. The foundation stone was laid on the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin, 8th September 2004, in the presence the Apostolic Nuncio Bishop Adolfo Tito Yllann and the work has quickly advanced.
The Sanctuary is meant to serve as a point of reference for all Melanesian faithful of Oceania. Just 150 years ago, the first evangelisation of Melanesia began. Melanesia refers to the islands of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, and the Fiji Islands and the local population is 87% Christian.
The Melanesians are also known as the “blacks of Oceania,” because of their physical characteristics and their unique features that differ from those of other ethnic backgrounds in the area, such as the Polynesians and Micronesians, who belong to the Austro-Indonesian group, more closely related to the Mongolian race.
The culture and spirituality of the Melanesians, due to there concept of a perpetual and total union between the human and divine, has been and is still, a good base for the announcement of Jesus Christ.
The Melanesians are inhabitants of one of the most recently evangelised areas of the world and possess a cultural heritage that unites the divine with all the other aspects of life: family, society, economy, and politics. Spirituality becomes a way of life, a part of the Melanesian perspective of the cosmos, and is expressed in various concrete aspects of daily life. Thus, in the process of inculturation into the Christian faith, the Melanesian spirituality has been taken into account in order to lead each person into a more profound and real relationship with Jesus Christ. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 19/2/2008; righe 45; parole 594)