The Catholic bishops of Oceania have last week concluded their week-long gathering in Fiji, being encouraged to respond to the hopes and challenges they shared with hearts of mission and service. The gathering drew bishops from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and many Pacific nations. Photo: Supplied/ACBC
The Catholic bishops of Oceania have last week concluded their week-long gathering in Fiji with a missioning Mass, being encouraged to respond to the hopes and challenges they shared with hearts of mission and service.
Dozens of bishops attended the quadrennial Assembly of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania, which concluded on Friday evening.
The gathering drew bishops from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and many Pacific nations.
Australian Apostolic Nuncio Charles Balvo, centre with Apostolic Nuncio to New Zealand, Fiji, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands and Micronesia, Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa, right and Solomon Islands Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Fermin Rodriguez, left. Photo: Supplied/ACBC
Suva Archbishop Peter Loy Chong speaks during the 2023 Federation of Catholic Bishops Assembly, Wednesday 8 February in Suva. Photo: Supplied/ACBC
In his homily for the Mass, Samoa Pago Pago Bishop Peter Brown CSsR urged his brother bishops – at the end of a week in which they focused often on God’s creation – to reflect on their place in the Church.
“It is difficult to ignore that we are part of those who have,” Bishop Brown said.
“We have power, influence and status within the Church community. How can we use that reality to enhance the care of creation?” he said.
Bishop Brown said a fellow bishop recently shared the story of someone whose land and life were being threatened by rising sea levels and pleaded with the bishop to help.
Such stories of urgency, he said, should invoke bishops to act on behalf of their people – “to help people to find a place to stand”.
Vatican Communications Dicastery Director of Editorial Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, FSP speaks during the 2023 Federation of Catholic Bishops Assembly, Wednesday 8 February in Suva. Photo: Supplied/ACBC
“May we go from here with hope that, through our leadership together with the People of God, we can find room for all – a place where they can stand,” he said.
“We return to our homes, I hope, with a little more unease than when we arrived. It’s a good sign. You have been moved and challenged. That unease is an open door for the Lord to work through us.”
Bishop Brown concluded his homily by paraphrasing the final words of the bishops’ concluding statement for the assembly: “It is with that mission in our hearts and minds that we prepare to leave our gathering. We carry the hopes and dreams of our people and our beloved Oceania.”
The concluding statement included reflections from the bishops on their three key themes for the week: Care for the oceans; Becoming a more synodal Church; and Formation for mission.
“It has been a great joy for the Bishops of Oceania to gather in Fiji this week to pray for and consider our shared mission as the Chief Shepherds of our region,” the statement said.
“Our assembly has provided the opportunity for us to pray together, to build fraternal relationships, learn from one another and consider common pastoral challenges.”
A key task of the assembly was to review and approve Oceania’s response to the Working Document for the Continental Stage of the Synod for a Synodal Church.
The bishops were pleased that, “guided by the voices of the People of God in Oceania, we progressed the work already undertaken to ensure a distinctively Oceanic voice will continue to resonate through the Synod documents”.
That response will be finalised and published in coming weeks.
The next assembly of the Federation will be held in Australia in 2027.
The Catholic bishops of Oceania with fellow delegates and support representatives at the conclusion of the week-long gathering in Fiji. Photo: Supplied/ACBC
Bishops name new president for Oceania Federation
Bishop Anthony Randazzo of the New South Wales Diocese of Broken Bay has been announced as the new President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania.
Broken Bay Diocese Bishop Anthony Randazzo has been announced as the new President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania. Photo: Supplied/ACBC
Bishop Randazzo was among eight members – two from each of the region’s four episcopal conferences – appointed to the Federation’s executive council for the next four years on the final day of its assembly in Fiji.
He takes over the presidency from Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of Suva, who has hosted this year’s assembly.
Archbishop Chong said the assembly was a gathering in which he could see the Holy Spirit moving.
“It's been a good experience of listening to other bishops and other people that have joined us,” he said. “I'm very happy with the assembly. It's left us with a mission and a mission that we want to carry out to the next stop, and that is four years’ time in Australia.”
Broken Bay Diocese Bishop Anthony Randazzo with Samoa Pago Pago Bishop Peter Brown CSsR. Photo: Supplied/ACBC
Bishop Randazzo said he was grateful, on behalf of the executive council, to receive those suggestions about “how we might work together as leaders and as servants of God's holy people so that together we might advance the mission of the Gospel”.
In a video message, he asked the people of Oceania to pray for the bishops, as they have prayed for their people during the assembly, “that the Holy Spirit of God might draw us all together as one body of Christ”.
Members of the Executive Council of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences Oceania from each of the four conferences are front, from left, Broken Bay Bishop Anthony Randazzo, Chalan Kanoa Diocese Bishop Ryan Jimenez, Wabag Diocese Bishop Justin Ain Soongie and Auki Diocese Solomon Islands Bishop Peter Houhou and Back from left, Wellington NZ Archbishop Paul Martin SM, Wollongong Bishop Brian Mascord, Suva
The members of the executive council from each of the four conferences are:
Australia: Bishop Brian Mascord (Wollongong); Bishop Anthony Randazzo (Broken Bay, president).
New Zealand: Bishop Michael Dooley (Dunedin); Archbishop Paul Martin SM (Wellington).
Pacific Islands: Bishop Ryan Jimenez, (Chalan Kanoa, Northern Mariana Islands); Archbishop Peter Loy Chong (Suva, Fiji).
Papua New Guinea/Solomon Islands: Bishop Peter Houhou (Auki, Solomon Islands); Bishop Justin Ain Soongie (Wabag, PNG).