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  • Nigel Akuani 

Bishops address issues of National Security

Port Moresby: In conclusion of the 62nd Catholic Bishops’ Annual General Meeting (AGM), a press conference was held to present important matters of national security discussed in the AGM.

The press conference was held on Wednesday 30th June 2021, at the Catholic Bishops Conference PNGSI. It had as its panel of distinguished speakers, His Eminence Sir John Cardinal Ribat, Archbishop of Port Moresby; His Excellency Archbishop Anton Bal of Madang and President of CBCPNGSI; His Grace Archbishop Rochus Tatamai of Rabaul; and His Lordship Bishop Otto Separy of Bereina. Also present for the briefing were representatives from various media and private organizations, and staff of CBCPNGSI.

Seven key matters were deliberated and presented that included: PNG as a Christian country, Partnership, Election 2022, Corruption, Casino, Covid-19 Scenario in the country and the theme 2022: Salt and Light (Church In Society). A Media Statement was also provided that gave a summary of the Bishops’ overall discussion throughout the AGM.

In the statement presented, a reaffirmation was made on the stance of the Catholic Church in regard to the proposal to declare PNG a Christian country. ‘We believe that this proposal is unnecessary and even dangerous as it opens the door for a church with political links establishing itself as the state religion and claiming priority for funding,’ the statement read.

It also called for the Government to honour its commitment to support the Church in its efforts and to start recognizing the Church as a partner and not just as a mere agent. ‘What we want is that the state honours its enacted commitments for partnership in education and health. We are not agents of the state. We are partners. We were providing education and health services before the state came along and might well be doing it when the state is gone,’ it read.

‘The state has promised to support us in what is their responsibility because what we do is in harmony with what they are supposed to do. We are keeping our side of the agreement but the state is not,’ it further outlined.

The General Elections for 2022, the issue of Corruption, and the proposed Casino by Paga Hill Development Corporation and the National Gaming Control Board, were also captured. According to the statement, ‘…A national election is an occasion on which the people of a nation exercise their democratic rights to choose their representatives for the national parliament. …We are alarmed that the problem of corruption is not getting solved. We want to see ICAC functioning properly and support the goal of the government to appoint independent commissioners. …For the country to have its own Casino is a big step from raffles, poker machines and horse racing to the Casino world of high flyers with associated money laundering and crime. Of all the possibilities for enhancing tourism in PNG, this must be the worst choice possible.’

The situation of COVID-19 faced by the country was also highlighted with a mention of the Theme for year 2022 - Salt and Light (Church in Society). ‘Although aware of many different views, we continue to maintain, on advice from health experts, that Covid is real, dangerous, and deadly. We encourage everyone to be vaccinated. …Our theme for 2022 will reflect on the role of the Church in Society, so that the whole church, clergy, religious and lay can work together to make PNG a truly Christian country whose people live gospel values and the church’s social teaching in their daily lives.’

The AGM formally came to a close with a Eucharistic Celebration on Wednesday evening at 5pm, that had as its main celebrant Abp Bal. Concelebrating the occasion were Cardinal Ribat and Bp Separy. The closing mass also had in attendance fellow bishops, priests and religious, laity, CBC staff and media personnel from Radio Maria PNG. Leading the liturgy were the choir group from St Charles Lwanga Catholic Church in Gerehu.

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