Sunday, 15 April 2018

AUSTRALIA, THE HOLY SEE & DIPLOMACY MELISSA HITCHMAN, AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE HOLY SEE REMARKS TO THE ASSEMBLY OF THE FEDERATION OF THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE OF OCEANIA, 13 APRIL 2018

 13 APRIL 2018
WELCOME AND THANKS: AUSTRALIA, THE HOLY SEE AND THE PACIFIC
Good morning Your Eminence the Cardinal Secretary of State, our host Your Eminence Cardinal Ribat MSC, Your Excellencies, fellow speakers and guests. Thank you to Vicar General Fr Ben Fleming MSC for the invitation to address you. It is one of the genuine pleasures of this role for me to join you at this conference, as the only Ambassador from our region from a resident Embassy accredited to the Holy See in Rome. Some of you already know me as a counterpart, others as an interlocutor, occasionally a demandeur, often a partner in securing shared outcomes based on common values. Others I have yet to meet or come to know. I look forward to doing so.

In my capacity as Ambassador, I was delighted to congratulate our host last year in the eternal city on his elevation to the Cardinalate. That appointment is testament not only to the regard in which His Holiness Pope Francis holds His Eminence, but to the pivotal role of Oceania in the Holy See’s consciousness. No other region reflects so starkly the message of Laudato Si to care for our common home.

As such, I was also honoured to host for dinner in Rome on 10 November last year Heads of State and Government, as well as ministers and officials from Papua New Guinea (PNG), Vanuatu, Samoa, Kiribati, Nauru, the Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia and New Zealand en route to COP23 in Bonn. You may be aware Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretary General - and PNG’s own - Dame Meg Taylor DBE led the delegation. It was a privilege to represent Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the papal audience, accompany our region’s leaders after they journeyed 16,000 km from their respective homes, and advocate alongside them for our region’s interests.

The PIF had a clear objective: to secure papal endorsement for Fiji’s United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP23) Presidency, given the moral authority His Holiness Pope Francis exercises on climate change. Why not have such ambition? That is our role when we hold office: to leverage outcomes in our interest. We were successful. I have no doubt you will be in your deliberations throughout this conference. It is vital that you are.

Our world is more interconnected and interdependent than ever. Change is occurring at an unprecedented scale and pace, challenging us to expand global cooperation to secure stability and prosperity. As you take your guide from Laudato Si, Australia’s engagement with the region has been reaffirmed by the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper’s commitment to developing opportunity, security and strength alongside our partners. How do we prosecute those interests?

The last month is an instructive example. The ASEAN-Australia Special Summit three weeks ago reinforced Australia’s enduring ties with Southeast Asia, whilst the signing of the Maritime Boundary Treaty with Timor- Leste in New York advanced security and stability for our neighbourhood. Visiting PNG immediately after, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced additional Australian support for recovery and reconstruction following the devastating 7.5 magnitude earthquake in February. She also opened a joint initiative to support future public service leaders at the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct in Port Moresby. Following her time in PNG, she visited Tonga and observed recovery efforts there following Cyclone Gita, to which Australia has contributed $14 million to restore community infrastructure such as

schools, water supplies, and electricity and to provide emergency shelters, hygiene and dengue-testing kits. Our enduring partnerships create opportunities for global cooperation that extend to the opposite side of the world at my post to the Holy See. Diplomatic relations between Australia and the Holy See reflect the same priorities that we pursue here on a broader scale.
In my address today, I wish to share with you the active diplomacy in which we are engaged to transform these priorities from objectives to outcomes. As I do so, I will focus on four areas:
  1. Australia and the Holy See’s respective diplomatic footprints
  2. Australian global diplomacy
  3. Australian regional diplomacy
  4. Australian bilateral diplomacy with the Holy See
1. AUSTRALIA AND THE HOLY SEE RESPECTIVE DIPLOMATIC FOOTPRINTS
Australia and the Holy See have a similar diplomatic footprint – 117 and 113 resident missions respectively, with additional capital-based issues-related Ambassadors for Australia (such as Counter Terrorism, Human Trafficking and Climate Change) and Apostolic Delegates for the Holy See (where diplomatic relations do not exist). In our capitals, Australia has around 140 states accredited under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (with a little over 100 resident in Canberra) and the Holy See around 180 (with a little over 80 resident in Rome). Of those 80, Australia is the only resident Pacific state. We are a micro post with resource constraints and a commensurate mandate. Yet we collaborate with likemindeds to multiply our message, advocate in policy and operational terms for our region, and partner with your representatives when they travel to the Holy See.

Australia’s reach is global, recently opening posts in Ethiopia, China, Ukraine and Qatar. However, our focus is clearly regional, with a new presence in Makassar, Indonesia; Phuket, Thailand; and an upgrade to our Consulate-General office in Lae here in PNG. Our investment is very much in our region, which is receiving 90.8% or $1.1 billion of our development assistance in 2017-2018.

As you well know, the Holy See has between around 20 and 30 Nunciatures in Europe (31), Africa (29), Asia (25) and the Americas (23) and three in Oceania, plus a dozen or so Apostolic Delegates and a couple of UN Observers. The Holy See established diplomatic relations with the region in 1973 – both Australia and New Zealand – and within five years had added Fiji and PNG. Solomon Islands followed in 1984, Nauru in 1992 and Timor-Leste in 2002 upon the gaining of statehood.

We are each in the business of service: both to the states we represent and for the future of humanity. As do you, the Australian Government and its partners in the region focus on the innate dignity and integral human development of each of our citizens. This is why our programs, funding and networks are multidisciplinary and contextual. Climate change is indivisible from economic sustainability, economic sustainability from security, security from health, health from education, and so on. Similarly, our respective diplomatic footprints are designed to balance global, regional and bilateral priorities to secure outcomes for all. I turn now to Australian global diplomacy.

2. AUSTRALIAN GLOBAL DIPLOMACY
Threats to international rules come from states directly challenging, ignoring or undermining international law, including in the global commons. Another risk is that states do not defend rules when this occurs,

leading to the potential erosion of global governance. New rules and norms could emerge that are inconsistent with Australia’s interests and values. Accordingly, we place a high priority on protecting and strengthening the international order that guides the conduct of relations between states. Strong rules that help constrain the exercise of coercive power contribute to global security. They are becoming more important as the distribution of power changes in the international system.

International law and other norms provide a basis for the peaceful resolution of disputes, including in relation to maritime or land border disputes. International rules, such as those embodied in binding resolutions of the UN Security Council, also underpin collective responses to challenges such as terrorism and North Korea’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. More broadly, a range of legal, regulatory and other measures support commerce, travel, investment and other exchanges. International accords such as the Paris Agreement guide global cooperation on climate change. A rules-based trading system centred on the World Trade Organisation is fundamental to our interests. International aviation, shipping, telecommunications, postal services and many other aspects of our world are inconceivable without the certainty and predictability inherent in a system based on rules.

Australia has a long record of helping to develop the rules-based component of the global order, beginning with the establishment of the UN in 1945. We have played a leading role in setting new rules and norms in areas as diverse as the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Arms Trade Treaty, digital trade, internet governance, global health standards and regional approaches to irregular migration and human trafficking. 

This gives us standing that we can leverage in pursuit of our interests. To help protect and strengthen international rules and norms, Australia acts in partnership with other states – such as the Holy See and those in the region – and organisations to uphold international law, encourage others to adopt or ratify international conventions and instruments to broaden adherence to international law, support international accountability and adjudicatory mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, continue to make a significant contribution to the development of new rules and norms, and use our development assistance to help partners join and comply with international rules-based processes.
In particular, Australia seeks opportunities to represent the voice of our region. As a member of the UN Human Rights Council for 2018-2020 and the World Heritage Commission for 2017-2021, we are committed to a strong multilateral human rights system and aim to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda to 2030. I turn now to Australian regional diplomacy.

3. AUSTRALIAN REGIONAL DIPLOMACY
Australia's step-up in engagement with the region is one of the highest priorities of the recent Foreign Policy White Paper, launched on 23 November 2017.

Economic growth
Australia partners with the region on a number of measures to drive economic growth. The 11 member Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus is central to achieving better integration of economies. We work with the private sector, New Zealand and the International Monetary Fund to reduce the cost of remittances. In the fisheries sector, we ensure the sustainability of stocks, extract greater long- run income streams and improve market access, resulting in increased GDP, government revenues, export volumes and food security. In addition, the Pacific Labour Scheme will offer opportunities in rural and regional Australia for up to three years. Commencing in July, it will focus on sectors with projected job growth which match workers’ skill sets, be employer-sponsored and contain protections to safeguard against
4
exploitation. It includes employer-provided pastoral care, improved visa arrangements and access to superannuation. The Scheme builds on the 21,000 from the region who have participated since 2012.

Security
PIF Leaders agreed last year to commence consultations on a comprehensive regional security declaration to guide future regional responses to emerging security issues. As part of that increased capability, Australia will establish a Pacific Security College to deliver a stronger, more coordinated, response to transnational security threats in the region. 

In 2017, Australia also signed bilateral security partnership MoUs with Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Nauru on maritime surveillance, police, border and legal capacity building, as well as new engagement on identity, border and health security. 

These complemented MoUs on health security with Nauru, Tuvalu, Tonga and Kiribati to enable medicine-quality testing on their behalf. These initiatives build on Australia’s aerial surveillance capability and law enforcement to combat illegal fishing.

People-to-people links
Australia has enduring people-to-people ties with the region. We fund programs to forge stronger, strategic- level relationships across the public, private, education, research and community sectors. 

Over the past decade, more than 9,300 students have received Australia Awards for study in Australia or in the region. Since its 2014 launch, the New Colombo Plan has supported more than 2,400 Australian students to study in 12 Pacific states. 

Of these, 1,100 will do so in 2018. I had the pleasure of welcoming one to our Embassy to the Holy See earlier this year: the first from the Australian Catholic University (ACU).

Education
Australia's regional education program complements national and bilateral efforts to lift literacy, numeracy and life skills. The region sometimes struggles to match economic growth with population growth. 

Key objectives of Australia’s investment include improving the collection, analysis and use of region-wide education information; lifting efficiency and standards in the delivery of post-secondary qualifications; and increasing the numbers who gain international qualifications in areas of labour market demand.

Health
Australia collaborates with governments and international organisations such as Caritas Australia – one of our trusted partners - to improve health outcomes in the region. Geographic isolation and dispersed populations make the provision of basic goods and services logistically difficult and expensive. Small island states have limited capacity and resources. 

Disease and maternal and child mortality remain of concern. Communicable disease outbreaks and other health security threats potentially worsened by climate change require prompt containment to prevent epidemics. Australia's investment focuses on multi-country approaches to governance, training, services and cross-border threats where there are economies of scale.

Climate Change Management Program
At the 2016 PIF, Prime Minister Turnbull committed Australia to providing $300 million over four years in support of practical action on climate change and disaster resilience in the region, and last year joined other Forum Leaders in calling for ‘urgent, ambitious action from the global community to climate change’. Such action in the region includes partnering with 14 meteorological services throughout the Pacific to build capacity in communications, climate and ocean prediction, and sea level monitoring. In four particularly disaster-prone Pacific states – Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu – we have invested in identifying risks and strengthening resilience measures. We also fund 26 Pacific states to develop biodiversity, ecosystem and waste management, as well as pollution control measures. In addition, Australia is supporting Fiji’s COP23 Presidency with $6 million and championing its objectives for a ‘Pacific consciousness’ which delivers outcomes for the region.

As we well know from His Eminence Cardinal Parolin’s keynote address and the discussion yesterday, His Holiness Pope Francis has exercised his moral authority on climate change through Laudato Si.

Secretary for Relations with States His Excellency Archbishop Paul Gallagher advanced that agenda last September, when he met with the UN Secretary-General in New York. 

Likewise, Archbishop Gallagher’s Deputy, Monsignor Antoine Camilleri speaks fondly of his own service as Deputy Nuncio here in PNG and the challenges in the region. Others within the Holy See such as Anima Mundi Museum Director Fr Nicola Mapelli are partnering with Indigenous Pacific communities to ensure the region’s heritage is respectfully documented given climate change risks relocation of populations and consequent loss of culture. We are grateful for such commitment.

In our region, Christian churches are supporting sustainable development. In October 2017 a coalition in Fiji issued a multifaith charter calling on leaders to strengthen their commitment to combatting climate change.
You may have been among them. 

Australia supports the Church Partnership Program, to foster cooperation among faith-based institutions to build community resilience for disasters, gender and social inclusion, and health service delivery. This is a best practice Church-State cooperation model. It is one we celebrate.

Climate-Induced Displacement
Australia considers the best response to disaster and climate-induced displacement, where feasible, is effective adaptation and well-supported internal relocation rather than cross-border resettlement as a first response. 

Leaders emphasised this themselves in the Niue Declaration in 2008, and reiterated it in Auckland in 2015. Also in that year, Australia joined 110 states in welcoming the release of the Nansen Initiative’s Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change. 

Through this, states acknowledged the need to provide humanitarian support to the displaced. Recognising this as a high priority for our region, Australia is a member of the Steering Group of the Platform on Disaster Displacement – the successor to the Nansen Initiative – which implements the Protection Agenda.

Empowering Women and Girls
There is a growing recognition among governments and the private sector that gender has a powerful effect on economic growth and wellbeing. However, women and girls face significant challenges. 

While women comprise 23.3 per cent of national parliamentarians globally (Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2017), the figure in the region is 6.9 per cent. Men outnumber women in paid employment outside the agricultural sector by two to one. Males typically earn 20 to 50 per cent more. 

Up to 60 per cent of women and girls in the region have experienced violence from partners or family members. Australia is strongly committed to efforts to give women and girls the opportunities and resources to reach their full potential and support them to participate fully, freely and safely in political, economic and social life. 

The 10-year, $320 million Pacific Women initiative is our flagship program to do so. Gender-responsive reporting is a feature of our mutual obligation arrangements with regional and multilateral organisations. 

In this regard, I particularly welcome the PIF Declaration on Gender Equality signed in 2012 and note that Dame Meg became the Forum Secretariat’s first female Secretary General in 2013. I turn now to Australian-Holy See bilateral diplomacy.

4. AUSTRALIA-HOLY SEE BILATERAL DIPLOMACY
My term as Ambassador is characterised by four priorities agreed with the Prime Minister’s Office:
a.
a. b. c. d.
a. Promoting Convergence
b. Raising the Profile of the Shared Agenda 

c. Leveraging People-to-People 
d. Links Harnessing the New Dimension

Convergence
As you well know, we are at a critical moment in history, with a reformist papacy and an innovative Australian Government prepared to consider policy options previously taboo. This presents a convergence of opportunities. There are challenges too. Not surprisingly, we do not always agree and we have our own national interests to pursue. However, there is a willingness on both sides to dialogue and understand the drivers for change. You have listened to me today articulating Australian global and regional diplomacy. References to values, pastoral care and person-centred approaches have been frequent. The objectives of mutual respect, human dignity, and integral development are shared. This gives us much on which to agree.

b. Shared agenda
Australia has a broad agenda with the Holy See which builds on Australian global and regional diplomacy.
Prominent among these is SDG13 on Climate ChangeI have mentioned already the visit to the Holy See – which the Embassy supported – of PIF Leaders last year en route to COP23 for Fiji’s Presidency. In addition, we hosted earlier this year the Australian Chair of the Board of the Crop Trust – and my predecessor bar one – Tim Fischer AC as he promoted the role of the Trust in safeguarding biodiversity and food security through its seedbank in Svalbard Norway in collaboration with the UN International Foundation for Agricultural Development (IFAD) based in Rome. 

Early in my term UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance – ANU Professor Quentin Grafton – advised the Holy See on Water as a Human Right. As the most arid continent on earth, Australia is in a position to comment.

You may be aware that Australia is home to the oldest living culture on earth, 60,000 years of Indigenous history from our original custodians, which we are honoured to call our own. This gives us a unique responsibility. It is one the Holy See generously supports through its promotion of First Peoples. Last year our Embassy hosted to the Holy See Australian Indigenous artist Deborah Cheetham AO, who shared her talents not only with the Roman Curia, diplomatic corps and diaspora in Rome, but visited a Jesuit Refugee Centre on the outskirts of the city and communicated with the families and unaccompanied minors there through the universal language of song, both in her own Indigenous language and that of Puccini. 

Mid last year the Embassy had the privilege of welcoming the inaugural Conaci Scholar to the Holy See care of scholarship funding by ACU. New Norcia Benedictine student Francis Xavier Conaci journeyed to Rome in 1848, met Pope Pius IX, studied throughout Italy, unfortunately died and is buried in St Paul’s Outside the Walls. 169 years later, Nathan Pitt, an Indigenous 19 year old health student from Queensland who had never travelled outside Australia, walked in Conaci’s footsteps last NAIDOC Week, building on his legacy. 
There will be another opportunity for such consolidation this May during Reconciliation Week. The Anima Mundi Museum and Embassy will co-host the launch of the Australia Catalogue which documents Australian Indigenous history and culture. This is the counterpart to the Canberra launch which occurred during Australia’s year of Indigenous anniversaries in December last. Some of you may have attended, and we hope
you will join us next month. 25,000 visitors to the Museum per day have the opportunity of learning about Australia’s Indigenous heritage – an impressive metric by any standard.

Addressing the challenges posed by people movement is another shared priority. The international community is struggling to manage the largest global refugee and migrant flows since WWII. Human trafficking and modern slavery are also on the rise, with 60 per cent occurring in our region. If this business were an economy, it would be a member of the G20. In addition to our regional initiatives, Australia and the Holy See are both working towards Global Compacts on Refugees and Migrants at UN General Assembly this year. The Holy See’s Twenty Points are a useful contribution. The UN has asked Australia to pilot a response on Migrants using the mature, 45-nation Bali Process involving source, transit and destination countries. In addition, as the Australian bishops will know, the Australian parliament’s Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade has recently concluded an Inquiry towards a Modern Slavery Act. The Embassy invited the Holy See to make a submission, which it has, focusing particularly on sexual exploitation and organ trafficking. I am aware the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) has made a statement on preferences for the bill expected to be introduced mid-year. I hope to discuss the way forward with Chair of the Inquiry Chris Crewther MP and Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans next week.

The Holy See value adds with its soft power to conflict resolution, peacemaking and peacekeeping in ways other states cannot. As such, Australia is pleased both to learn from, and lend its experience to, realisation of SDG16. We have been interested in the Holy See’s views on regions where our representation is more limited, such as in South Sudan, as well as providing insights from our own region as I indicated earlier.

Given the Holy See’s contribution to education – over 1 million students in our region alone – it is to be expected that Australia is collaborating with the Holy See bilaterally to achieve SDG4. Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Board Chair and 27th Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard visited Rome this year and last to seek papal support for the GPE’s pledging conference co-hosted by France and Senegal in February. The GPE assists the most vulnerable, at-risk children in conflict zones, regions of severe deprivation and discrimination. 72 million more children across 65 countries were in primary education in 2015 compared to 2002 as a result. I have the opportunity of thanking His Eminence Cardinal Parolin today for delivering His Holiness Pope Francis’ message to Ms Gillard. Closer to home, ACU is the largest catholic university in the world. It has a Rome campus. 24 groups will visit in this financial year. I address most on the bilateral relationship to give context to their study. Throughout my term, I expect to meet 1,000 of them and hope they will be multipliers for the message of Australia-Holy See diplomacy.

The Embassy also works with the Holy See towards realisation of SDG3 on health. As already mentioned, Caritas Australia is one of the Australian Government’s trusted partners for emergency humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the region. The Embassy also promotes health and wellbeing through the Health Symposium ACU and Catholic Health Australia (CHA) hold annually at the Rome campus and the consulting role both ACU and CHA have with the Dicastery for the Promotion of Human Integral Development. Opportunities for cooperation are limited only by imagination and resources. I was privileged in the first year of my term, for example, to welcome 300 Australian pharmacists to the Holy See and discover that the Vatican Pharmacist had for 50 years been an Australian. In a first, the Embassy arranged a briefing and tour of the Vatican Pharmacy – reputedly the busiest in the world with 2,000 visitors per day – and learned that the medicine cabinets are Australian-designed and made. Now you know!

A priority for Foreign Minister Bishop is realisation of SDG5 on gender equality and the empowerment of women. We focus on three priorities: enhancing women’s voice in decision-making, leadership and peace- building; promoting women’s economic empowerment; and ending violence against women and girls. This,
too, is an area in which the Embassy works with the Holy See. Indeed, Australia has been doing so for decades. I discovered on arrival that the first woman to hold an executive position in the Roman Curia – as Undersecretary of the then-Pontifical Council for the Laity – was Australian theologian, author and activist Rosemary Goldie AO. I was delighted when Australia’s first female Defence Minister, Marise Payne, dedicated the Embassy’s conference facility the Rosemary Goldie Room in her honour. Members of the Curia attended the ceremony only eight weeks ago. My own appointment is testament to the Australian Government’s commitment to building on this legacy of women’s voices being heard. As Archbishop Gallagher – then Apostolic Nuncio in Australia - amusedly advised me, the Holy See has been accepting female nominations for decades! I work with the other 11 female resident Ambassadors – around seven per cent of the cohort – and many male Ambassadors towards SDG5. Our Embassy celebrates International Women’s Day annually. This year we hosted 2017 Senior Australian of the Year Sr Anne Gardiner AM OLSH as a role model for Church-State-Indigenous collaboration through her six decades of ministry to the Tiwi.

All of us gathered are conscious of the challenges in the bilateral relationship. It is a painful time in Australia. There is opportunity for healing. As the Australian bishops know, Prime Minister Turnbull has invited institutions to participate in the National Apology to victims of child sexual abuse which he will deliver by the end of the year. On my return to Rome I will welcome incoming Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors’ Australian Commissioner Justice Neville Owen and hear his views following the reconstituted Commission’s meeting next week. In June the Embassy will support the hosting by the Anglophones of the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Centre for Child Protection annual conference. This follows Australian eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant’s attendance at the University’s Child Dignity in the Digital World Conference last October. In terms of another form of protection, Foreign Minister Bishop referred to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade a request to Inquire into Freedom of Belief. The Embassy invited the Holy See to make a submission. It has done so. We applaud such constructive engagement from the Roman Curia, particularly the Secretariat of State.

c. Leveraging people-to-people links
Not only ACU but the Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) Group of religious in Rome provide rich networking opportunities in and around the Holy See. I am delighted, for example, to greet Archbishop of Christchurch His Excellency Paul Martin here at his first such conference in this capacity. Congratulations. The Embassy has been enriched by your and your colleagues’ contribution. I have a regular dialogue with the ACBC, and acknowledge General Secretary Fr Stephen Hackett MSC, who is assiduous in advising me of developments in Australia. I have extended a welcome to the ACBC bishops from the Embassy whenever you are in Rome. Several have accepted that offer. I do the same for all of you here gathered.

d. The new dimension
As we look forward, many opportunities beckon. There is much yet to do. We are exploring the potential for Memoranda of Understanding with Pontifical Universities in Rome similar to the ACU’s with the Lateran. We have prepared an Embassy digital strategy. We are close to launching an Embassy internship program. I go from here to midterm consultations with stakeholders in Australia – four states and a territory in seven days. I will visit several of your Archdioceses. I will listen, learn and no doubt be enriched as I have been since my arrival here. Thank you for welcoming me. 

Pleased be assured that the Australian Government supports this region through our global, regional and bilateral diplomacy with the Holy See. This is our neighbourhood. This is our home. This is where our interests lie. 

Friday: The Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania Assembly Port Moresby.

FCBCO Summary – 13 April 2018
– James van Schie
The Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania (‘FCBCO’) 4 yearly Assembly continued today in Port Moresby.
The bishops began the day with prayer and Mass. Spirits are high following the uplifting Mass celebrated yesterday afternoon together with Cardinal Pietro Parolin (Holy See Secretary of State) at the Caritas Technical School, Boroko.  Nearly 2000 people came to pray with the bishops and the Mass included special musical composition from local PNG musician Mr John Lavu.  The bishops were inspired by the traditional dance and beautiful music that enriched the celebration of Eucharist.
Today, the bishops returned to dialogue on serious and weighty issues of concern for Oceania.
The Hon. Powes Parkop, Governor of Port Moresby, spoke about the continuing work of transforming the capital into a peaceful and confident city and home. Governor Parkop also addressed the challenges presented by the refugee situation in PNG. There are two main sources of refugees in PNG. Firstly, those from West Papua and secondly those in PNG at Australian processing centres.
The Governor emphasized the strong friendship between Australia and PNG but on the issue of refugees and mandatory detention on Manus he said that Australia cannot wash its hands of the social and humanitarian problems the PNG government are now facing. He said that PNG has paid “a high price” for helping Australia on refugee resettlement and one cost has been a tarnished reputation of Manus as a place of welcome and hospitality.
Bishop Leo Labar Ladjar from Indonesia talked to the bishops about the life of the Church in West Papua and explained the history and dynamics of this culture. Of particular concern to him is the profound need for quality government schooling and healthcare not only in the cities but in the interior of this region.
Melissa Hitchman, Australian Ambassador to the Holy See gave a presentation to the bishops which highlighted Australia’s work in the region and the many areas of shared interest. Melissa has spent the last two days with the bishops of Oceania, creating and renewing strong relationships. Her presence and participation has highlighted the way faith communities, diplomats, and governments can work for the common good.
Fr Ambrose Periera sdb, a Salesian priest and Secretary for the PNG/SI Bishops Commission for Young people led a discussion which included the participation of young people from various parts of the country. The young people challenged the bishops to spend time with them, accompany them in the reality of day to day life, and form and fully involve young people in the life of the Church. They made mention of the need for good marriages that lead to stable family life.
Finally, Archbishop Mark Coleridge brought to the attention of the bishops that the Australian Church will have a “Plenary Council 2020” and he discussed possible ways in which neighboring churches could be involved in the Council.
Background on speakers
·       Fr Ambrose Pereira sdb has spent 20 years in the pacific, a majority of them have been in the Solomon Islands. Having completed a Master of Communications Social Change at the University of Queensland, he strives to offer young people a platform to express themselves, bring about change and effect policy change. He is Secretary for the Commission of Youth and Social Communications in PNGSI.

Media enquiries.

Fr Ambrose Pereira SDB



Thursday: The Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania Assembly 2018

FCBCO Summary 12 April 2018
The Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania (‘FCBCO’) is now underway with 80+ bishops from across Oceania along with expert guests. The focus of todays meetings was the effects of climate change on nations and their economies.

All gathered were delighted that the keynote address was delivered by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. He is “the no. 2” in the worldwide Catholic Church.

His focus, drawing on the writings of Pope Francis (Laudoto Si’), was to show the connectedness of the entire worldwide human family. His fundamental point was that we all share a common home which we call planet earth. While this may be obvious on one level, if this truth is accepted then there are ethical implications for everyone as to how we use the treasures of the land and sea.

The Cardinal did not shy from identifying the widespread scourges of unsustainable development, exploitative industries, and unjust land usage. He pleaded for a deep-seated conversion of attitudes towards God’s gift of creation. In particular, he named politicians and policymakers but also noted that each and every one of us needs to put into practice responsible and modest living.

Cardinal Parolin implored the audience to do all possible to overturn the globalization of indifference. In today’s world, he said, frontiers cannot be placed behind which we hide from global responsibility.

A particularly distinguished address was given by Professor Ottmar Edenhoffer. This world-renowned scientist gave an incisive and detailed account of the way in which the effects of climate change can be measured. He also analyzed the industries which most contribute to the carbon emissions, especially coal-dependent industries.

In his presentation, he explored effects of climate change which are less widely recognised. Examples included displacement of entire communities as a result of disruptive weather patterns and droughts and floods. In countries where infrastructure is limited or where there are already tensions between various groupings of people, forced migration can spill over into violent conflict.

Prof Edenhoffer challenged the bishops to work with their people to make the reduction of carbon emissions “a political non-negotiable”. Through his international work, he is aware that many political parties agree that the effects of climate change even in the short to medium term are destructive but the courage to align policy with industrial and consumer change is still grossly lacking. It is up to each individual voter in every nation to demand of their leader’s effective action for the good of everyone.

The last speaker of the day was Msgr Primin Spiegel, Managing Director of Misererorin Germany. His input exemplified a collaborative international relationship which brings expertise from Europe to Oceania. Cardinal Ribat, who also addressed the assembly, has been a guest of the Misereror and has brought the voice and perspective of Oceania and the catastrophic impact of climate change into the heart of Europe.
This afternoon, the bishops will celebrate Mass at Caritas Technical School, Boroko.

Background on speakers
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of His Holiness The Pope. The Cardinal has been in this role since 2013, and has worked in the diplomatic service of the Holy See for thirty years. The Cardinal will speak on Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’ which underlies the theme of the Assembly

Monsignor Primin Spiegel is the Managing Director and Chairman of the Board of the Misereror and he also addressed the theme of ‘taking care of our common home’

Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, one of the world's leading experts on climate change policy and
environmental and energy policy, speaking to the Assembly on Catholic Social Teachings. 

Media enquiriesz: Fr Ambrose Pereira SDB