HUMAN rights, climate change and environmental protection have topped the agenda as Australian bishops joined more than 70 bishops from across Oceania for meetings in Port Moresby from April 11-18.
In a keynote address to the Federation of the Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania, held every four years, Holy See secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin challenged the Church to identify and promote true alternatives to harmful ways of life that prevailed in society.
Cardinal Parolin shared his reflection on Laudato Si’, the second encyclical of Pope Francis, and called on bishops to fight the ideology of individualism that harmed people and the environment.
“Individualism of course has very deep roots coming from the times of the enlightenment and which encouraged a separation from each other,” he said.
“A separation from community brings us towards other means of individual and independent living.”
The Assembly of FCBCO is a meeting of four bishops’ conferences of Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
Under the theme, Care of our Common Home of Oceania: A sea of possibilities, the FCBCO studied the environmental and social challenges they were facing and tried find concrete solutions to the needs across the Pacific region.
Concerns included the care of the ocean ecosystem, the protection of human rights and the environment, threatened by an economy of intense exploitation of this vast geographical area.
An assembly work session discussed the plight of more than 600 asylum seekers stranded on PNG’s Manus Island.
An Australian detention centre was set up on the island after a controversial political agreement between PNG and Australia.
Thousands of asylum seekers from all over the world were brought to the detention centre, and although the centre was closed last October, hundreds of would-be refugees remain, living in a legal limbo.
They were moved to “transitional structures” on the island following a ruling by PNG’s Supreme Court.
During the conference, environmental scientist Professor Chalapan Kaluwin, from the University of PNG, delivered a presentation on the science on deep seabed mining and outlined the known risks associated with this experimental form of resource extraction.
He urged the PNG government to reconsider the controversial Solwara project – a proposal by Nautilus Minerals Inc, a Canada-based company primarily owned by Russian and Omani mining firms, to extract gold and copper deposits from 1.6km below the surface of the Bismarck Sea, using a seabed mining technique never before used in commercial operations.
Prof Kaluwin told the bishops the project was based on flawed research, an absence of proper health and economic analysis, and a lack of protection of traditional landowners.
A group known as the “Solwara Warriors” presented to the bishops, setting out concerns about the mining project and the long-term damage it could impose on the environment, including marine life.
On Sunday, April 15, Cardinal Parolin was the main celebrant at a Mass for laity and youth.
A congregation of 1500 filled the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, Boroko.
Cardinal Parolin blessed a large painting of PNG martyr Blessed Peter To Rot.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge was among bishops who celebrated Mass in 14 parishes across Port Moresby.