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  • Nigel Akuani 

Installation Mass for First Local Archbishop of Rabaul

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

Vunapope, Rabaul: A grand Installation Mass of the first local and 8th Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Rabaul, His Grace Rochus Josef Tatamai MSC was held on Tuesday 29th September, at the Vunapope Sacred Heart Cathedral, East New Britain Province.

29th September is the feast day of the Archangels and St Michael is the patron saint of Papua New Guinea.

The Installation had as its theme: “God Wantaim Yumi”. Archbishop Rochus Tatamai was the main celebrant. Concelebrating with him were 14 bishops. Amongst them were the Apostolic Nuncio to PNGSI, Archbishop Kurian Mathew Vayalunkal; Sir John Cardinal Ribat MSC; Archbishop Emeritus, Francesco Panfilo SDB; and a large number of priests. Also present were religious, seminarians, family and friends and the people of the Archdiocese of Rabual and the other dioceses.

Abp Tatamai served the Diocese of Bereina for eleven years since 2007, the diocese of Kavieng for two years since 2018, before his appointment as the Archbishop of Rabaul. He is a direct descendant of Blessed Peter ToRot.

In his homily Abp Rochus gave thanks to God for the years and experience as Bishop of the dioceses of Bereina and Kavieng. He compared his return to Rabaul similar to that of Jesus’ return to Nazareth. “Jesus returned to Nazareth and was judged by the people for what he did. There will be those who will judge and question my decisions, but all I ask for is your cooperation and patience as you allow me to lead as your new Shephard,” he said.

He reminded the people to continue to support the Church in their efforts to drive forward the Province and its people. He urged parents to pray and encourage their children to live a Holy Life in the Church. “Pray for our children, that they become people of faith and remain in the service of the Church as Catechists, Seminarians and as Religious,” he said. He highlighted not only quantity but quality of vocations.

He stressed the need for the archdiocese to become more inclusive in its efforts of improving its quality to effectively deliver its diocesan pastoral plan among its people. He thanked Archbishop Panfilo for his inclusive thrust of reaching out in a special way to the people in Pomio, where he established 7 new parishes. He thanked him for his stress on education, youth ministry, family ministry, vocations and the different social issues faced by the people. He thanked Archbishop Karl Hesse who stabilized the archdiocese after the volcanic eruption.

At the start of the celebration, the Apostolic Letter of Pope Francis, was read and displayed to all. Thousands of Catholic faithful from the three deaneries of Rabaul, Pomio and Kokopo were present together with many who travelled from as far as the Dioceses of Kavieng, Kimbe and other dioceses of Papua New Guinea to be present for the celebration. The Vunapope parish choir led the singing and the dances were by the Diocese of Kavieng and the Vunadirdir parish.

After the Eucharistic celebration speeches and a variety of items were presented. These included a march past by the students and Vunapope Catholic Women, traditional dance performances from the Baining and Pomio areas of Rabaul, and a variety of dances from the Dioceses of Kavieng and Kimbe.

Several amongst the gathering thanked Archbishop Panfilo and spoke joyfully of the new archbishop. Patricia Novena, a housekeeping maiden, with joyful tears in her eyes said that the installation of the first local Archbishop was not just a milestone for the Church but for the people of ENB Province. “I am grateful for the grace and power of God. I am blessed to be part of this generation witnessing this significant event for the Archdiocese,” she said.

Allister Tavtavun, from Rabaul, described the installation as ‘historic’ as this was the first time a local was appointed to such a prestigious role in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. “The previous seven Archbishops were expatriate missionaries and this is the first time that one of our own, born and raised up here, has taken up this elevated position of the Church,” he said.

The Catholic church was established 138 years ago on Matupit island. Many missionaries lived and proclaimed the faith. Several died of exhaustion, malaria and were even martyred for their faith.

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