OCEANIA/PAPUA NEW GUINEA - Anticipation of the Pope's visit and gratitude for the words of comfort after the landslide

Wednesday, 29 May 2024 pope francis   pilgrimages   constitution  

ACN international

Rome (Agenzia Fides) - "There is great excitement in our Catholic community in Papua New Guinea about the upcoming visit of Pope Francis next September. His arrival is seen as an event of grace for all the communities of a vast and pluralistic country, with many different characteristics and realities, which recognizes the human and spiritual contribution of the Christian faith," says to Fides Father Victor Roche, SVD, a 70-year-old Indian missionary of the Society of the Divine Word, who has lived and worked in Papua New Guinea since 1981 and is currently the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies. The missionary reports that "the official announcement of the Pope's visit has caused great joy. Spiritual preparation is underway, with prayers in all parishes and communities. Prayers are also being made that the Lord will keep the Pope in good health and allow him to travel and arrive in a distant land where the people of God, but also all other citizens, will welcome him with great joy and emotion".
"In addition," he continues, "meetings and seminars are being organized in various parishes to explain to people the role, function, identity and mission of the Pope in the Catholic Church, since he is a spiritual leader but also a head of state. People are curious and want to know more," affirms Father Roche. According to the program, the Pope will stop in two places, namely in the capital, Port Moresby, and in Vanimo, "where there is a thriving Catholic community, rich in missionaries, some of whom are Argentines and will be particularly happy to meet the Pope, who is a compatriot of theirs." "It should also be remembered that a few years ago, before the pandemic, some baptized lay people from Vanimo and Papua New Guinea had a meeting with the Pope in the Vatican, and it can be said that this meeting was the first small step towards this papal trip, because these lay people expressed to the Pope their deep desire to welcome him in Papua New Guinea to tell and show the fruits of faith in this land," recalls the missionary. Regarding the problems facing the country today, the PMS National Director thanks Pope Francis in particular, who in today's General Audience, May 29, expressed his closeness to all those affected by the devastating landslide in Papua New Guinea, which has claimed over two thousand victims in six villages in the central part of the country. "May the Lord comfort the family members, those who have lost their homes, and the Papuan people, whom God willing I will meet next September," said Francis at the end of his General Audience, while the local Church, as Father Roche reported, "has deployed all available means and all possible help, both on a material level and as a spiritual consolation, thus showing a solidarity that realizes and embodies these words of the Pope." Another issue that is currently affecting the country is the debate on a possible amendment to the Constitution, which would include an explicit reference to the Christian religion: "On this issue, which is of interest in the political debate and in the work of Parliament, our bishops have spoken out: the Church considers that the reference to God is already included in the preamble of the Constitution and does not consider it necessary to change the Charter even further in the direction of confessionalism. We are a secular country with extensive and clear freedom of religion, worship and social action, as evidenced by the fact that most of the schools in the country are run by the churches. This demand, which aims to create a confessional state, is made by evangelical Protestant groups, to which we should not give in for the good of all," concluded the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 29/5/2024)