Colombo (Agenzia Fides) - "The Church in Oceania is vibrant in faith. Overall we are a young Church with a vibrant and dynamic community at a pastoral and social level. We are committed to a permanent formation for our faithful. We have to thank the Churches of Asia, who have sent missionaries. But today we are concerned about the social condition of our people, affected by climate change": says to Fides Cardinal John Ribat, first Cardinal from Papua New Guinea, Archbishop of Port Moresby, who participated at the eleventh plenary assembly of the Federation of the Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), held in Negombo (near Colombo) in Sri Lanka. The Cardinal took part in the meeting as president of the Federation of Episcopal Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO), which includes Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and 17 other small nations of the Pacific. He represents 84 dioceses in 21 countries, with different cultural, economic and religious characteristics, many of Christian majority.
"I take this opportunity to thank the Asian bishops for sending missionaries in our region", notes Ribat. "Most of our missionaries now come from Asian countries such as India, Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam". The 59-year-old Archbishop told Fides that in Oceania the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the foundation of some dioceses in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands have just finished, and "the growth of the local Church was possible thanks to the fraternal support of the Asian Churches". Cardinal Ribat is a member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, the Congregation founded in 1854 by Father Jules Chevalier in Issoudun, France.
With regards to current issues, the Cardinal told Fides: "Today an important issue for the populations in Oceania is that of climate change. Although we are not responsible of this problem, we are strongly affected", he complains. The negative effects, he explains, include increasing sea level, acidification of the oceans, rains in unusual periods, all of which seriously damage the fishing communities and farmers of the region.
"In some cases, entire regions and nations are threatened by the unquestionable rise of the sea level. For example, this concerns the Carteret islands, Fead Islands, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, the Mortlock Islands, the Nukumanu Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu islands", he recalls.
Cardinal John Ribat is concerned about the life and the social status of the indigenous peoples of Oceania: "Affected by continuous flooding and drought, populations have significantly reduced the productive capacity of the land and the natives are often forced to flee", he notes, fueling the phenomenon of migration that touches the inhabitants of the continent. (PA-SD) (Agenzia Fides 05/12/2016)