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Australian Bishop visits PNG Refugees

-      Nigel Akuani


Port Moresby: Australian Catholic Bishop from the Diocese of Paramatta His Excellency Bp Vincent Long OFM, was part of a 7-member religious delegation from Australia that arrived here in Port Moresby on Friday 1stNovember, at the Jackson International Airport.


The delegation included Bp Vincent, Fr Peter Smith of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Fr Tom McDonough from the Holy Spirit Province, Fr Gerry Heffernan, Sr Mary-Clare Holland a representative from Sisters of Eastern Australia, Mr. Josh Lourensz National Coordinator of Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA), and Carolina Gottardo Co-convenor of CAPSA and Director of Jesuit Refugee Service(JRS).


Bp Vincent said he was grateful for his visit to PNG, but admitted his concern and sympathy for the refugee’s and asylum seekers being held in the country. He made the testimony during an evaluation and planning discussion on Tuesday 5thNovember, at the Catholic Bishops Conference in Gordons. “It has been an opportunity to meet some of them and I am moved by their experience and story of suffering,” he said. 


He added, “It was a chance to express our solidarity with them and convey the support, prayers, and good will of the people of Australia to them. The solidarity of our fellow Australians is very strong and we were able to represent the good nature of Australians, the great tradition we have in caring for migrants and refugees with those here in PNG”.


Bp Vincent recalled his visits to the refugee residences around Port Moresby and said the situation did not seem to appease the refugees being held.  While in Australia he heard of the plight from refugees in Papua New Guinea. However, having met some of them, he described the reality of the situation as ‘dehumanizing’. 


He urged the local Catholic Church and the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNGSI to continue in its efforts of humanitarian assistance and assured the future support of the Australia Catholic Bishops Conference and its Catholic communities to help those suffering.


The group during their stay also discussed relationships and cooperation between CBCPNGSI and Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) on Social Justice - Mission and Service, and other issues of common concern in the Pacific region.


The foreign delegates departed for Australia on Tuesday 5th November.

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