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Pacific Bishops speak about the Amazon Synod

29 October 2019
A pair of fishermen head out to sea from Malaita Island in the Solomon Islands. Image: Caritas Australia.

 

Cardinal John Ribat of Papua New Guinea

Cardinal John Ribat of Papua New Guinea has spoken to Catholic News Service about climate change and the effect it is having on his country and neighbouring Pacific islands, as well as how the recent Synod of Bishops for the Amazon can be relevant to Papua New Guinea.

For Pacific islanders like those in his country, “the real issue is climate change,” said the cardinal, who is participating in the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon in the Vatican from Oct. 6 to 27.

One important message from the synod, he said, is that the church plays a crucial role in promoting respect for the culture and the dignity of original peoples.

Unlike the Amazon, where indigenous people are a minority, most of Papua New Guinea’s population is indigenous. And unlike both Latin America and Africa, where church workers who defend local communities’ rights often come into conflict with government officials, political leaders in Papua New Guinea tend to listen to the bishops on issues affecting people’s lives, Cardinal Ribat said.

The synod has convinced the cardinal of the need for the church to work across borders on common issues, especially in promoting an integral ecology. Upon returning home, he said, he plans to talk with bishops throughout the Pacific region about launching a network similar to those that have formed in the Amazon, Mesoamerica and Africa.

Archbishop Peter Loy Chong from Fiji

Caritas interviewers Harriet Paterson and Alejandra Pero spoke with Archbishop Peter Loy Chong from Fiji as the new Caritas environmental report for Oceania is published.

“We should have a synod on the ocean,” declares the Archbishop, now in Rome for the Amazon synod.

“The Amazon and its forests are important, but we must not forget how significant the ocean is in the web of life,” says Archbishop Peter.

“In Oceania, we are victims of climate change and yet we contribute the least to it,” comments the archbishop bluntly, pointing to the many coastal inhabitants in Fiji being forced to abandon their homes to rising waters.

The future of indigenous communities in Oceania is under threat, just as it is in the Amazon. People who live close to nature are observing subtle changes to the tides and currents, to water levels and the forests. Traditional knowledge of the land, the river, and the sea has been handed down for generations. But, says the archbishop, “nothing has prepared them for this”.

“We can’t address climate change as a piecemeal and isolated matter,” declares Archbishop Peter. “It must be part of our overall approach to caring for the environment.”

“Integral ecology is where God and creation are interconnected.”

To continue reading this article – ‘Climate change forcing Pacific islanders from homes, cardinal says’, click here.

To continue reading this article – ‘Archbishop Peter Loy Chong from Fiji Calls for Oceania Synod’, click here.

With thanks to Catholic News Service and Barbara J. Fraser and Zenit and Harriet Paterson and Alejandra Pero, where these articles originally appeared.

The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region was held in the Vatican from 6 to 27 October. For more information, click here.

 

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