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Catholic Bishops Conference takes part in Pacific Conference of Churches 12th General Assembly

Noumea, New Caledonia: The Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands was among the member churches present for the Pacific Conference of Churches 12th General Assembly held in New Caledonia from November 16 – 24, 2023.

CBC PNGSI delegates: Bp Peter Houhou of Gizo Diocese (left), Shane Ailu and Jessica Oata (PNG representatives).

Hosted by the Église Protestante de Kanaky Nouvelle-Calédonie (EPKNC), the General Assembly started with the pre-assemblies which set the pace for discussions on different pressing issues that are of concern to the Churches in the Pacific.

From Friday November 17 – Sunday November 19, the youths had their pre-assembly in Do Neva Agricultural High School, the women’s pre-assembly for a ‘Just and Safe Pacific Communities of Women and Men’ took place in Canala, the Pacific Church Leaders had their meeting Lifou while the South Pacific Association of Theological Schools (SPATS) had their meeting in the University of New Caledonia.

The 12th General Assembly had as its theme: Do Kamo, which translates to ‘Khrist! Transform us into your new humanity! The General Assembly is a celebration of ecumenical fellowship and a reconnecting of Pacific peoples.

The first day began with a special devotion to commemorate World Children’s Day dedicated to the children of the Pacific Household of God.

The day was opened by an address from the Moderator Reverend Doctor Tevita Havea from the Free Wesleyan Church in Tonga before the first Thematic Plenary on Transformation as Ecumenical Fellowship.

The Plenary had the main presentation by Archbishop Emeritus Dr. Winston Halapua from the Anglican Diocese of Polynesia with reflections coming from the Executive Director for the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organizations Mrs. Emeline Siale Ilolhia, World Council of Churches President for the Pacific Rev. Francois Pihaatae and the General Secretary of the Bible Society of the South Pacific Mr. George Miller.

Following the responses was the submission of reports by the PCC Council on the programmatic work that the PCC has done over the past four years on behalf of their member churches.

The second day dwelt on the abrasions and challenges faced by the people of the Pacific as a result of our region’s colonial past with a reflective bible study led by the Principal of Piula Theological School Rev. Professor Moses Mailo.

The thematic plenary focused on Transformation as Self-Determination and had reflections from the Church and People of Kanaky, the Etaretia Porotetani Maohi, The Churches of Tanah Papua and the United Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress in Australia.

The third day had two main sessions. The first session focused on Transformation as Economic and Ecological Stewardship which had the Coordinator of the Pacific Network on Globalization Ms Maureen Penjueli. A response was given by Archbishop Peter Loy Chong from the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific (CEPAC) who spoke on ‘The cry of the Land’. Rev. Dr. Cliff Bird concluded the first session with his response titled ‘Reweaving the Ecological Mat: An Ecological Framework for Development’. The second and final session of the assembly focused on reframing Children as God’s Precious Gifts: Transformation as Child Protection and Empowerment. There was also a presentation on a pilot program advocating for Child Protection and Safeguarding in Fiji, Solomon Islands and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which later became a desk in the PCC Secretariat. To close the thematic plenary, Church Leaders and Church Enablers that had been part of the pilot program shared their reflections.

The final day had a report from the South Pacific Association of Theological Schools Council followed by elections of the new Office Bearers of the PCC which saw Rev. James Bhagwan retaining his current position as General Secretary, Elder Dr. Leatulagi Faalevao of the Congregational Church of American Samoa as Moderator and Rev Sepiuta Hala’api’api of the Anglican Diocese of Polynesia as Deputy Moderator.

The PCC Secretariat has been working extensively on the themes of Ecumensim, Child Protection and Safeguarding, Ecological Stewardship and Climate Justice and Self-Determination.

Other highlights of the PCC include:

· Update from the Pacific Theological College, Fiji and a ‘Soft Launch’ of the Pacifika Communities Universities (PCU).

· The official signing of the Pacific Ecumenical Community Charter which saw the Pacific Theological College, the Pacific Conference of Churches and the South Pacific Association of Theological Schools (SPATS), as regional ecumenical institutions commit to greater collaboration, dialogue and partnership to furthering the vision and mission of Pacific Churches.

· Welcoming new member-churches to the PCC: the Association of Hawaiian Evangelical Churches, Anglican Church of Australia, the Reformed Congregational Church of the Marshall Islands and the National Council of Churches in Australia.

· Presentation of affirmations and recommendations of statements on issues concerning the people in the diaspora that were discussed during the pre-assemblies held over the weekend prior to the assembly proper.

The 13th Pacific Conference of Churches General Assembly will be held in Fiji in 2027.

CBC PNGSI is a large member church in the Pacific Conference of Churches.

The PCC has 33 member churches and 10 Councils of Churches from 18 countries and territories across the region.

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