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The crisis of Marriage: Melanesian culture and secular trends

Port Moresby: The Secretariat of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands hosted its annual conference for Church Leaders and dwelt on the theme: “The crisis of marriage. Melanesian cultures and secular trends. Religious, approach, theology, and tradition.”

The aim of the conference was to address and deepen the knowledge and understanding of marriage and relevant implications in society. The conference began on 27th September and concluded on 29th September at the CBC headquarters, Gordons, Port Moresby.

Twenty-eight participants made up of Bishops, Commission Secretaries and invited guests were present.

The first day focused on comprehending the basic tenets of the traditional Melanesian marriage. Sessions were presented by Br Martin Tnines, SVD, Melanesian Institute, Goroka and Sr. Miriam Dlugosz, SSpS, Divine Word University, Madang. They presented the cultural and traditional understanding of marriage in Papua New Guinea. Through extensive surveys and discussions, the participants were helped to understand the difficulties and challenges faced by a number of couples. The issues of bride price, bride wealth, exchange, productivity, marrying into the tribe, etc were discussed and participants shared from their experience and pastoral ministry.

The sessions on the second day investigated current secular trends, pastoral and canonical implications and their relation with cultural, ethical, and religious values. In an interactive session, Fr. Ambrose Pereira SDB, Social Communications secretary presented the effect of Artificial Intelligence and the need to be aware of current short-term trends that have a long-lasting influence on covenant relationships. Participants agreed to make every effort to understand young people, the presence of a generation gap and the need to journey with the young people.

In a passionate session, Bp Rolando Santos CM, Bishop of Alotau and Bishop Deputy for the Commission on Family Life, discussed the pedagogical and pastoral approach to help young people and young couples. He encouraged the participants to be personally involved in preparing young people for the Sacrament of marriage and journeying with couples in their parishes.

The third session of the day and those of the 29th September, were presented and discussed by Fr. Nelson Mathew Mapiria JCL, Judicial Vicar for the diocese of Mendi. He dealt with the foundations of Catholic Marriage Law, covering the following topics:

What is Marriage or the nature of marriage, the essential ends or purposes of marriage, marriage as sacrament, the essential properties of marriage and the matrimonial consent. The presentation and discussion on the above topics were to review the basic theology of marriage taught by the Catholic Church, and to compare them with the traditional and modern view on marriage, so that the Catholic Church in PNG is guided well in the midst of the secular trends that is becoming stronger and almost diminishing the values of Christian marriage.

The Annual General Meeting concluded on 30th September with a Eucharistic Celebration that saw the launching of the Conference Pastoral Plan 2 - 2022 - 2027 which was approved by the Bishops that same day.

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