Suva (Agenzia Fides) - The Assembly of the Federation of the Four Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO) was inaugurated yesterday, Sunday 5 February, with a Mass in the Sacred Heart Cathedral of Suva, capital of Fiji. Present at Suva Cathedral were hundreds of local faithful, dozens of bishops, priests and religious, and other assembly participants.
Referring to the Gospel of the Day, Cardinal Michael Czerny, Prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, said: "To be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we must rediscover the power of being brothers and sisters in Christ". "Pope Francis, in his encyclical Fratelli tutti, reminds us that we are called not only to do good, but also to be good and want the good of others," he said. "Unless we as baptized learn to love as children of God and to live as brothers and sisters in Christ, our existence becomes meaningless and our witness as a church becomes insipid and dull," he added.
The Cardinal touched on two other issues in his homily, dealing with climate change and synodality. Tackling climate change, he said, "is part of caring for our common home, which here also means caring for the ocean. This highly topical issue is closely linked to holistic human development". "Faced with the task of promoting integral human development," he added, "the Church's role is both to denounce and to proclaim. It is also necessary for the follower of Christ to act and intervene in history in order to enrich the present with good. In this sense, the task of the local Churches is to accompany the joys and hopes, the concerns and anxieties of the people in a pastoral, practical, profound and constant way".
To do this, he continued, "we need an approach in which listening, dialogue and reflection become a permanent starting point in a synodal manner, to then identify, propose and support effective responses to promote integral human development for all".
Then he turned to the bishops and said: "One shepherd is a shepherd for all. How should he be a shepherd? Only a synodal process can help us to recognize and walk together".
"As God speaks through His people," he said, "we need to listen to our brothers and sisters from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Tuvali, Kiribati, Torres Strait and others as they share their stories and struggles, desires and challenges. We must learn from our indigenous
brothers and sisters how they have cared for creation throughout the ages, their reverence for the mysterious grandeur of creation and their gratitude for the fertility of the earth have enabled them to share the fruits of the earth, without plundering oceans and rivers, mountains and forests". The aim of the meeting, which will last until Friday 10 February, is, among other things, to "promote contributions to the common good that showcase the cultural richness of Oceania" and "to deepen the collegial spirit and strengthen solidarity among the members of the four Bishops' Conferences".
Meanwhile, FCBCO President Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of Suva said that the focus of the discussion on a pastoral plan for the region should be the document "prepared for the Synod on Synodality on behalf of the people of God in Oceania". In this regard, he indicated that "all the people in the four Bishops' Conferences of Oceania have been consulted and the various reflections and proposals will now be presented to the Bishops' Assembly, which is to adopt the document, which will then be forwarded to the Synod Secretariat". "Today's assembly is of great importance for the Federation of Bishops' Conferences of Oceania, because it is the beginning of a 'new chapter' in the way we carry out God's mission in our region", said the Archbishop.
The Federation of Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Oceania includes the Bishops' Conference of Australia, the Bishops' Conference of New Zealand, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, and the Pacific Bishops' Conference (CEPAC) with the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia , Northern Mariana Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 6/2/2023)
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