Sydney (Agenzia Fides) - “We face many challenges in our dioceses and countries including political and economic tensions in some places and the spread of a secularist mentality that seeks to exclude Christianity. Yet, in spite of the challenges, there are so many positive signs of vibrant faith, hope and love.” This is what the Bishops of the Federation of Catholic Bishops of Oceania (FCBO) stated in a message sent to the Holy Father, at the conclusion of their meeting, held May 10 to 14 in Sydney on "Walking His Way, Bearing His Fruit, Living His Life." The meeting, held every four years, was attended by more than 90 bishops from 17 countries: Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and the many Pacific Islands. During the sessions, the Federation - which unites four Bishops' Conferences: Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon - elected as its new president Archbishop John Dew of Wellington (New Zealand), successor to Bishop Peter Ingham of Wollongong (Australia), who has led the Federation for the last four years. Fides asked Bishop Ingham a few questions, as during the meeting he spoke on the mission in Oceania.
What are your opinions and hopes for the FCBO meeting?
My opinion is that it has been a very successful meeting. It has provided a good building of communion among the bishops of the various conferences, many of whom already know each other, but there are always new appointments and new experiences for some. We’ve endeavored to provide some professional development with biblical scholars, and biblical, spiritual, practical and theological input around the topics of the last two synods of bishops.
What were the main issues in the debate?
It’s the communion, it’s the professional development, and the forum to discuss the joys and hopes and anguish and sorrows.
We’ve listened to a report from each of the four conferences and we’ve looked at ways in which we can support each other with clergy transfers, with seminary personnel, and financial support. We hope to share resources with one another.
What do you think are the greatest challenges for the mission of the Church in Oceania today?
In some parts of Oceania, it’s the secularist mentality that wants to exclude religion from public life. While it’s common to all, it’s particular to Australia and New Zealand.
In other parts of Oceania, it’s political instability and corruption in some governments; the breakdown of traditional morays, which creates a vacuum. The old is gone and the new has not emerged. This becomes a great opportunity for the church and confers a great responsibility too.
There is also the struggle against poverty, HIV/AIDS, etc., all of which demand a clear and prompt response. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 14/05/2010)