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  • Nigel Akuani & Fr Ambrose Pereira SDB

Culture & Spirituality marks celebration of new Archbishop

Updated: Oct 28

Vunapope, Rabaul: A vibrant cultural extravaganza followed the prayerful Eucharistic celebration on 29th September, 2020 at Vunapope, Rabaul to honour the newly installed Archbishop of Rabaul, His Grace Archbishop Rochus Josef Tatamai MSC.



Abp Rochus is the first local and the 8th Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Rabaul.

The lively outdoor celebration was held at the Archdiocese’s grounds amidst thousands of people. Present for the celebration were government statesmen and ministers. Present were former Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Sir Rabbie Namaliu; Governor of East New Britain, Honourable Nakikus Konga; and Health Minister, Honourable Jelta Wong. Archbishop Emeritus, Archbishop Francesco Panfilo SDB; Apostolic Nuncio to PNGSI, Abp Kurian Matthew Vayalunkal; Sir John Cardinal Ribat MSC; Archbishop Emeritus Karl Hesse, Archbishop Rochus Tatamai MSC and fellow Bishops were part of the VIPs present for the event.

Speaking on the occasion was Abp Francesco Panfilo who expressed his gratitude for the kindness and generosity shown toward him over the years during his work and stay in Papua New Guinea. “As I go into retirement, I only ask that you remember me in your prayers. I assure you that I am praying for all you,” he said.


The Honourable Governor Konga thanked Archbishop Francesco and congratulated Abp Rochus. He reassured the community that closer collaboration between the Church and Provincial Government of East New Britain will be maintained for the development of the province.

The former Prime Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu praised the efforts of Abp Panfilo in education, saying, “Abp Panfilo was committed to the people”. He also commented on the efforts of Catholic Church in regard to ‘Laudato Si’ and admitted that the province would not have progressed this far if it were not for the Church. “It is because of the Catholic Church, the Province of East New Britain now has one of the highest literacy rates in the country, with good access to schools, roads, and health care systems,” he said. He expressed his gratitude to Abp Karl Hesse and said, ‘He was a Tower of Strength’.

Apostolic Nuncio, Abp Vayalunkal farewelled Abp Panfilo and said that he was a generous man, an extraordinary missionary and a Good Shepherd. Quoting Cardinal Tagle, he said that the Holy See appreciated the work of Abp Panfilo and wished him all success in his future apostolate.

He congratulated Abp Rochus on his new role and highlighted three points from the 2019 message of the Holy Father, Pope Francis to the Bishops. 1. Don’t keep people waiting. Devote more time to them and be in contact with reality. 2. Be an apostle of listening and 3. Remain close to your priests. “As you take up this appointment, may you be Jacob’s ladder, that the Lord will descend upon the people of Rabaul, and they will ascend to heaven through you,” he said. “And help others to smile”, he concluded.

Reflecting on his years and experience in serving the Dioceses of Bereina and Kavieng, Abp Tatamai said that one of the main challenges for the country was the display of affection through sharing and caring of others. “Our richness and maturity will be measured by how many people we are willing to help in other parts of the country,” he said.

He appealed to faithful to get out from their comfort zone, recognize the spirit of humility, see the good in others and to treat them with dignity and respect. “Where more is given, more will be expected,” he said.

Mary Tosiolu, a local parishioner of Sacred Heart Cathedral, said that the occasion was both a happy and sad experience as they welcomed their new Archbishop and said goodbye to their old. ‘We appreciate that we have a new bishop and that he is from here, but at the same time we are saddened by Abp Panfilo’s departure from Rabaul, as he has grown to become a part of us,’ she said.

Dorcas Namur, a dedicated layperson from the Kokopo Deanery, said, “I thank God for our new Shepard and I believe that the clergy and laity will work together in solidarity engaging not just Catholics but also the broader community, for the common good of everyone,” he said.

Cultural dances and presentation of gifts continued through the afternoon as the people celebrated their joy and happiness.




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