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© The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

This text can be reproduced by Bishops' Conferences, or at their authorization, provided that the content is not altered in any way and two copies of the same be sent to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, 00120 Vatican City State.


His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, 38 (10 November 1994), voiced his intention to convoke a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania. Shortly after this announcement, the Holy Father appointed a Pre-Synodal Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for the Special Assembly for Oceania, composed for the most part by bishops from Oceania. The General Secretariat immediately began the preparation process for this special synodal assembly by sending a letter of consultation to all the active bishops of the Latin and Oriental Churches in the region of Oceania, as well as to the Departments of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General, in an effort to arrive at a topic of contemporary importance, universal interest and particular urgency for treatment at this special synodal assembly. The results of this consultation were discussed and later used by the Pre-Synodal Council for the Special Assembly for Oceania in its formulation of a topic for submission to the Holy Father.

Taking into consideration the Council's proposal, the Holy Father subsequently made the following choice of topic for this Special Assembly: Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth and Living His Life. The topic is an appeal first and foremost to all members of the Church in Oceania, and then to all peoples in the Pacific, to look to the Person of Jesus Christ, Who proclaims Himself to be "the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6). By seeking to walk in the Lord's footsteps, to proclaim and adhere to His truth, and to remain in daily communion with Him and others, the Church hopes to make a timely and propitious response--in word and deed--to the unique circumstances existing within the Church in Oceania, as well as to contribute in a beneficial way to the good of all the peoples and cultures in the region, as part of the Church's programme of evangelisation towards the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

To present this synodal topic in a general way, the General Secretariat, in cooperation with the members of the same Pre-Synodal Council and theologians from the region of Oceania, has drafted the Lineamenta, the first in a series of documents related to the Special Assembly for Oceania. As its name suggests, the present document is offered as a broad "outline" on the topic. The sole purpose in providing this text is to foster a common reflection and prayer on the topic as well as to generate suggestions and observations. For this reason, a series of Questions appears at the end of the document.

It is hoped that this Lineamenta will result in a rich response in every part of the Church in Oceania so that the bishops of the Latin and Oriental Churches can have the necessary information to draft their official responses. Consequently, the Lineamenta itself is not part of the agenda of the Special Assembly. A "working document" or Instrumentum laboris will be drawn up at a later time on the basis of the official responses coming from Oceania's bishops, from the Departments of the Roman Curia and from the Union of Superiors General. It will be the task of these individuals and offices to use the contributions they will receive to draft their official responses which will, in turn, be submitted to the General Secretariat. A rich response will ensure that the Synod Fathers, gathered in Special Assembly, will have the material needed for a more in-depth treatment of a topic of great importance for the Church in Oceania.

Therefore, the whole Church in Oceania is invited to participate: diocesan and religious priests, women and men religious, laymen and women, seminaries and faculties of theology, pastoral councils, Catholic movements and groups, parish communities and all Church organisations. The more numerous the answers to the questionnaire, the more complete and substantial will be the information for those who are responsible to draw up their official responses. This will likewise ensure the complete and substantial character of the text of the Instrumentum laboris, the document which will be the center of attention and discussion at the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania.

In preparing a response to the Lineamenta, the following points should be borne in mind. The number and variety of the questions listed in the final section of the document have been deliberately chosen to serve as a guide in structuring the reflections on the topic of the Special Assembly for Oceania. These questions, then, and not the Lineamenta text, should be the basis of all responses. In this regard, all observations should make explicit reference to the question addressed. At the same time, each and every question need not be answered. Depending on individual circumstances, respondents are free to make a choice of those questions which seem relevant.

In the Pacific region, responses from Church communities and groups within a(n) arch/diocese are sent to the local bishop who is to use the information in drafting his official response. Contrary to the usual synod procedure, this official response is to be forwarded not to the respective Episcopal Conference of the bishop, but directly to the General Secretariat. The official submissions from these individuals bishops, and those from the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General should arrive at the General Secretariat no later than 1 February 1998. This target date should be kept in mind by all those who wish to contribute in some manner to this reflection process.

With the publication of the Lineamenta a crucial stage in the preparation of the Special Assembly begins, a stage which relies upon the cooperation and prayers of every member of the Church. The mystery of communion teaches that the Church extends beyond the confines of a given nation, continent and region of the globe--beyond the world as we know it--through time into eternity. As the Church in Oceania prepares for this special celebration of the communion of bishops, She does so in mystical union with the whole Church. In this spirit, She is supported in this period of preparation by the prayers and good works of all the Church's members, particularly by those of the heavenly community of Oceania's Saints and Martyrs, and, as in every endeavour, looks to the Virgin Mary for her unfailing assistance.

Jan P. Cardinal Schotte, C.I.C.M.

General Secretary



Oceania and its peoples

1. On the world-map Oceania ranks as the fifth great division of the globe. Because so distant from other countries, it was the last area discovered by European navigators on their voyages of exploration. But the last discovered are now the newest arrivals in whom the Church rejoices. Oceania has been a challenge to explorers and missionaries and to its own people because of its immense size. It covers millions of square kilometers of the greatest ocean on earth as well as the continental landmass of Australia. Its name, of course, is taken from the ocean that connects the islands and landmasses together into one geographical zone. The early navigators found that after a treacherous storm they could be becalmed because of its "peaceful character" which left them motionless on the water, without wind to fill their sails. And so this great ocean became the Pacific Ocean.

The word "pacific", however, indicates more than a name; the term can also be said to characterise the manner of life of the peoples of the region. The Pacific Way suggests the typical manner in which the area's peoples deal with their problems. But much more than this, it indicates how deeply the people treasure peace and desire it. Peace resulting from dialogue and consensus is generally preferred to imposing violent solutions. Though this sense of peace was violated many times in history and in the subsequent struggle for self-sufficiency, it still endures as the traditional ideal and rule for most peoples in the area. Since the end of the Second World War, great political, economic and social changes have swept through the region. In some cases, these changes in Oceania are taking place in a relatively peaceful way. In others, the tendency to use force and violence is on the increase, as painfully witnessed in Papua New Guinea.(1)

Oceania is home to a rich variety of peoples. For the sake of this synodal assembly, the term "Oceania" refers to all the peoples living in the geographical area of Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands grouped together as Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia.(2) Some Asian ethnic groups, like Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans, Filipinos and Javanese, coming originally as an imported or indentured immigrant labour force, are now inhabitants of Oceania. Even after many years of residency--sometimes for more than a century--these groups still retain their original and characteristic identity.

Many Island people have moved to Australia or New Zealand and have formed a cultural group of their own. The original people of Australia, the Aborigines, and of New Zealand, the Maoris (who call their country Aotearoa), now find themselves minorities in their own countries, a situation which resulted from colonisation in these two countries by European settlers, mainly from England, Ireland and Scotland. Many Europeans have also settled on various islands in the Pacific. In the last 50 years, other ethnic groups from Europe and Asia have also migrated to Oceania.

From the point of view of historical discovery, Oceania--apart from the Marianas, colonised and Christianised in the 16th century--was the geographical area last touched by European colonisation and Christian missionary activity. The colonial powers were aware that the discovery of a continent under the Southern Cross would complete their world map. They named it "the Southern Land (Terra Australis) of the Holy Spirit", referring to the One who completes the communion of the Trinity. The generous service of so many missionaries moved by the Holy Spirit contributed to bringing the Gospel of Christ to the region, thus making the Spirit's presence felt in Oceania and manifesting His many fruits among its peoples.

Today, the peoples of Oceania are facing significant changes which have begun since the Second World War when the Pacific became a battleground and a militarily strategic part of the world. Until that time, the peoples of the region had lived, for the most part, in a relatively routine manner with little outside attention. In the aftermath of this Great War, however, the situation began to change: the idea of democracy was introduced; many small island countries became politically independent; the Cold War ended and the Pacific Rim grew in economic importance. In many cases, Oceania is presently attempting to find its own identity in relation to Europe, America and Asia. After many years of dependence on colonial powers, the region is looking at ways to achieve a greater self-sufficiency through unity in diversity, cooperation amidst friendly competition, and interdependence with autonomy. Realistically speaking, however, most realise that true political and economic self-sufficiency as well as a proper cultural identity must take into account the other parts of the globe and their peoples.

A Synod for Oceania

2. The synod movement is a process of dynamic communion at many levels. The actual synodal assembly gathers a portion of the Church's bishops cum et sub Petro, "with and under Peter" in the person of the Holy Father. It expresses the communion of the episcopal college which is in direct succession to the college of apostles under its Head, St. Peter. The mystery of communion is operative and manifested particularly in the local Church where all bishops are called upon to participate in the synod process, whether that be in their particular Churches through engaging all levels of the community in collaborative endeavours in the synod's various phases, or on the broader level through their regional, national and international episcopal structures which seek, in turn, to enlist Church bodies and organisations for participation in the synodal process. All members of the Church are expected to respond to the call to communion and participation in the synod process, all according to their state and vocation within the Church. In this way, the synod remains true to its etymological meaning of "walking together" in unity, a unity of spirit, mind and purpose.

Jesus Christ is the source of the Church's unity and the Way which leads to ever greater communion. Therefore, He is the Way which all in the Church must walk. His Spirit moves the whole Church to a deeper communion with God as Trinity and with one another. As the sign and principle of unity in the local Church, the bishop has the task to foster communion, especially through the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The bishops also have the responsibility to promote communion among themselves. Therefore, the Synod is important as an expression and instrument of communion among the bishops and with the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter. In ordinary general assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, bishops come from around the globe to celebrate their communion through prayer and through discussion on matters of pastoral importance for the Church.

Beginning with the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, the Holy Father has seen fit to convoke Special Assemblies on the continental level: America, Asia and Europe. These continental synods--including the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania--constitute part of the Church's preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Apart from this special character, they manifest and always foster communion among the bishops, and as a consequence, among all in the Church.

The bishops in Oceania have various Church institutions which assist them in their episcopal ministry of care and concern for their Particular Churches and which express their communion and collegiality. Among these are the four Episcopal Conferences in the region: the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, the New Zealand Bishops' Conference, the Conferentia Episcopalis Pacifici (C.E.PAC.) and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. Recently, the bishops have further strengthened their communion and collaboration through the institution of a more extensive coordinating structure: the Federation of Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Oceania (F.C.B.C.O.). In this way, the bishops are better able to respond to the many challenges facing the Church in the entire region of Oceania.

Pope John Paul II, in order to strengthen Church communion--not simply among the bishops but with the whole People of God in the region--has made a number of pastoral visits to Oceania, thus following the example of his predecessor Paul VI, who in 1970 visited Australia and Western Samoa. In 1981, the Holy Father, on his way to Japan, visited Guam for the beatification of Diego Luis de San Vitores. Three years later, he went to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. After two years, he again returned to Oceania to visit Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. In 1995, he visited Papua New Guinea, this time to beatify the catechist Peter To Rot. He then went to Australia for the beatification of Mother Mary McKillop. On all these occasions, the Holy Father encouraged all the peoples of Oceania to be open to the new challenges in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be faithful to the best in their cultural traditions. The Catholic faithful, other Christians, and many people of good will in Oceania have welcomed these visits and expressed their joy in song and dance. Grateful for their welcome, the Holy Father has urged the Catholic people to be messengers of the peace, justice and joy which they have received in Jesus Christ.(3)

The Special Assembly for Oceania will be a gathering of Catholic Bishops, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. At this time in Her history, the Church in Oceania faces great challenges. The occasion of the Synod, therefore, can serve as a powerful call to all members of the Church in Oceania--indeed to all people of good will in the region--to rediscover Christian and human values, traditional and new, which characterise Oceania, and to bring these values to bear on life. In the past, the Church in Oceania has had many successes and wonderful examples of Christian life and communion, a reason for expressing deep gratitude to God through Jesus Christ and a source of encouragement in facing today's challenges.

The present time, then, is a time of opportunity, the tempus opportunum, the kairos of which the Scriptures speak (cf. 2 Cor 6:2). It is a time for new efforts, new chances and new graces for Oceania. The Holy Spirit will not fail to inspire the Church in this part of the world which bears His name. Under the Spirit's inspiration and guidance, the synod movement in Oceania can provide the occasion for revival and renewal in the Church's programme of evangelisation in view of the Third Millennium. In a certain sense, the synod movement might also serve as a means of bringing about peace--one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit--, a peace which is characteristic of both the region and its peoples' manner of living as well as of resolving difficulties. This renewed peace comes about by looking to Him Who is God's peace and the salvation for the world--Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ: the Way, the Truth and the Life

3. When Jesus refers to Himself as "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14:6), His words are an invitation to His followers--indeed, to all who hear these words--to accept Him as the way of salvation, the all-satisfying truth, and the life to be lived.(4) This act of faith is not something which an individual does in isolation from others. Because accepting Jesus into one's life as the Way, the Truth and the Life is always a personal choice or act, it is done in the context of the believing community through the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism. The ecclesial community as well as the individual welcomes in faith the saving presence of Jesus. In Her members, the Church follows the Way, receives and teaches the Truth and lives the Life, offered to all by God, the Father. Are these not the same gifts presented in the Holy Spirit, the all-encompassing and inexhaustible Gift of God?

The acceptance of Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life is not meant only to fulfill the intense longings of the heart of His followers and to be the basis for their unity; it is meant also to be lived in such a manner that the saving presence of Jesus is offered to others, who do not as yet, or no longer, believe in Him. The way of Jesus has to be walked, His truth has to be received and taught, His life has to be lived in such a way that believers become witnesses of Jesus to the world (cf. Jn 15:27). By being authentic and trustworthy witnesses of Jesus Christ, Christians are invitations to others to share in their faith and joy in the Lord. Faith in Jesus implies that believers actively commit themselves to His service for the sake of others. They are called to walk His way with a sense of mission. Going out into the world, they will meet others in order to bring them into contact with Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

True evangelizing activity is never separated from acts of charity. Proclaiming the Gospel to others is in itself an act of charity. But charity goes farther, inspiring the followers of Jesus to be of service to everyone with whom they have contact, but in a particularly way to the poor, the marginalised, the oppressed, in short, the less fortunate of this world. Through personal communion with Jesus, they are urged by His love to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Such a response will be in itself an invitation to others to come to the marriage feast of salvation (cf. Matt 22:9-10). Walking the way of charity brings others the presence of Jesus' enlightening, healing and strengthening love. In this way, Jesus will indeed be the Way, the Truth and the Life, not only for His followers but for all people of good will, indeed for the whole world.



Introduction: Walking the Way of Mission

4. Walking the way of Jesus Christ implies that all His followers accept their part in the mission which the Lord has entrusted to His Church. Jesus, the Son of God, was sent by the Father into the world as the Incarnate Word, the unsurpassable manifestation of God's saving love. During His public life, He walked through the land to bring the Good News of the coming of God's Kingdom. He brought the power of His healing mercy to the broken human spirit, and gathered the dispersed and rejected into communion with God and with one another. Jesus was sent on a mission to renew and transform a people, so that it might fully be God's very own people, walking in justice and acting with mercy.

Soon after beginning His public ministry, Jesus called others to follow Him, so that from that time forward He no longer walked alone, but was accompanied by His disciples. From their number, He chose the Twelve to be the New Israel, the New People of God. He sent them out as apostles. Later, they were joined by the seventy-two (cf. Lk 10:1ff). These first missionaries visited many villages and towns so as to spread the Good News of God's Kingdom and to bring the healing Power of God's love to all persons and communities. Jesus sent them out two by two so that they should never walk alone, but in the company of others, so as to be more effective witnesses. Thus, they expressed in action their communion with each other through their union with Jesus. This missionary communion was the path which lead to the wider and deeper communion, uniting the whole People of God.

On some occasions, Jesus met men and women who were not of His People: the Roman centurion (cf. Mt 8:5), the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:8-42) and the Syro-Phoenician woman (cf. Mk 7:26). They came to Him and He met them on His way, as if they were sent by the Father to widen and broaden the field of mission. At a later time, the community of His disciples would continue this mission under the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Drawn by their Jewish faith, people came to Jerusalem as pilgrims and approached the disciples so that they could come in contact with Jesus. On such an occasion Jesus foresaw His dying on the cross, describing the fulfilment of His mission as being lifted up and drawing all people to Himself (cf. Jn 12:32). Through the mystery of His death and resurrection, Jesus was to become the Way, the Truth and the Life, not just for one people but for all peoples of the world and for each person.

Soon after the resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit was sent upon the Church, moving the disciples by the mighty and merciful power of God to bear witness to Christ, first in Jerusalem and then to other parts of the world. For them, to walk the way of Jesus was to conform their lives to the Gospel and to walk together as missionaries through many lands and to come in contact with many peoples so as to proclaim the Good News. Well known is the great and challenging example of missionary outreach done by St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles. He and his companions travelled far and wide in the then-known world to proclaim Jesus as the promised Messiah and to announce fellowship in Him. Those who listened in faith and accepted Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism were transformed by God's grace, and empowered to live according to a new justice, based on reconciliation, truth and love. As a result, in these early Christian communities, many barriers were broken down and were replaced by charity and fraternity.

It was in Antioch that the new converts were first called "Christians" (cf. Acts 11:26). Even at this time, they were identified as followers of the Way and suffered persecution as a result (cf. Acts 9: 2). This Way, followed by the Christians and their communities, was to believe in Jesus the Lord and to be witnesses of the Gospel. Paul and the other apostles not only proclaimed this Way through their words but also through their life, their healing action, their communion and leadership. Their missionary journey led them to others who did not yet believe. Their evangelisation opened for many people the royal way to God and His Kingdom.

The missionary activity initiated by the early Church was continued throughout the ages by many new generations of Christians, so that an increasing number of people were called upon to walk the way of Jesus Christ together. For their part, they followed the missionary call and ventured forth to enlist others who would also walk the Way with them, because God's message must go out to the whole earth. God wishes everyone to hear the Gospel and to heed His Saving Word. The process continues until the end of time. There are no limits to God's saving grace.



Early Contact and First Missionary Efforts

5. In the Church's long history, many centuries passed before the Gospel was preached in every part of the world. One of the last areas to be reached by Christian missionaries was Oceania. In the 17th Century, Europe began efforts towards exploring and colonising the Pacific region, later expanding these plans in the 19th Century. At that time, the Church sent missionaries on these voyages not only to meet the spiritual needs of the explorers and colonists, but also to evangelise the local people. Where the Church took advantage of passage and protection provided by European exploration and colonisation, evangelisation in the region was not always connected with these events. In Australia the Church's missionary efforts had little relation to exploration and colonisation. Though difficult to believe, in certain cases, it was not until after the Second World War that some peoples of the Pacific Islands came into contact with outside adventurers and Christian missionaries. Indeed, it was a long time before the Gospel reached Oceania. However, once it was welcomed, it began bearing fruit, rightfully being called "fruits of the Holy Spirit". As a result, this part of the world became, as its early name suggested, the great Southern Land of the Holy Spirit. As the stars of the Southern Cross gleam in the night sky over continent and islands, so the Cross of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, casts its rays on the lives of Oceania's many peoples.

Christianity first made contact with the peoples of Oceania during the Spanish expeditions from South America to the Philippines in the 16th Century. The Spanish explorers and their crews were accompanied by Franciscan chaplains. At times, they made landfall on one of the islands which they encountered on their way, and celebrated a Mass on its shores. It is known that in 1595 a Mass was celebrated on one of the Solomon Islands. The first organised missionary effort in Oceania was commanded by the Spanish Queen Mariana in 1668. She sent Jesuit missionaries from the Philippines to Guam in the Marianas. The Spanish undertaking was not without military intentions. A similar but unsuccessful effort was later made in Tahiti.

These first attempts were indications of what was to become a common phenomenon. While the Church pursued a missionary programme reaching to the ends of the earth, the political and commercial patrons of the colonial expeditions were little motivated by religious interests. Often, the Church's missionary activity was welcome and tolerated only when it served the political, commercial or strategic interest of the colonising nation. After the activities of Spain in the area, Great Britain, France, Germany and later the United States of America, made their national interests felt in their colonial policies and attitudes with regard to missionary endeavours in Oceania.

Initiatives of The Holy See

6. A full scale missionary outreach of the Catholic Church to Oceania was organised at the end of the 18th Century, but was not begun until the early 19th Century. The Roman Pontiffs and the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (now: Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples) took the initiative and made courageous plans to send missionaries to Oceania.

A first attempt was made in 1827, when Pope Leo XII asked the Society of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (SS.C.C.) to establish missions in Hawaii. Though the first priests who arrived in 1831 were soon deported because of Protestant opposition, they returned to stay in 1833. Missionaries gradually went to the other islands and New Zealand, first from Hawaii and Tahiti, and then directly from Europe. A great expansion of mission stations was the result. In this context, only a few pioneering events can be mentioned. In 1837, Bishop Pompallier and the first French Marists reached Wallis and Futuna. Some months later, they landed in New Zealand. An effort to establish a mission in New Britain was made in 1881. A year later, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, under Father Navarre, made a second attempt, laying the foundation for a successful mission on the islands of New Guinea. In 1882, their confrere, Father Verjus, and his fellow missionaries landed on Yule Island from where they began preaching the faith on the Papuan coast. In 1896, Father Limbrock led a group of missionaries of the Society of the Divine Word to found a lasting mission on the coast of New Guinea.

The first hierarchy in Oceania was established in Australia in 1842. The apostolic vicariate of New Holland had already been created in 1834 and entrusted to the English Benedictines. They were to serve the religious needs of the convicts and the colonists, many of whom were Irish and Catholic. The "Men of '37" were a group of Irish clergy who arrived in Australia in that year to establish the skeleton of what became the parish system in the country. The spiritual needs of Christians of other denominations were already being attended by clergy sent from Great Britain. The Catholic missionaries were not always welcome in Australia. In the early days, the colonial authorities often persecuted them or hindered their efforts to serve the Catholic people.

After the successful missionary efforts of European and American Protestant Communities in the Pacific Islands, Catholic missionaries arrived. These missionaries, oftentimes enduring great difficulties, succeeded in contacting the indigenous people and making converts. They saw the importance not only to convert the peoples of Oceania from a belief in their gods and spirits to faith in Jesus Christ, but to teach them Catholic doctrine and to receive them into the communion of the Catholic Church with Her sacraments, liturgy and devotions. Where at the beginning there were difficulties in the relations between Christian leaders in these missionary attempts, there is presently a greater ecumenical spirit of cooperation and movement towards communion in accordance with Jesus' prayer and desire.

Work of Missionary Congregations and Institutes

7. The great workers in the missions of Oceania were largely members of religious orders and congregations. The first were the Spanish Franciscans and the Jesuits in the 17th century. In the 19th century, the English Benedictines went to Australia. As the century passed, the recently founded apostolic congregations, especially those from France, began sending their missionaries, priests, sisters and brothers to Oceania. The pioneering efforts of the Franciscans, the Jesuits, the Society of Mary (Marists), the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission of Milan (PIME), and the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Society of the Divine Word, were assisted by the missionary work of many other congregations of priests, brothers and sisters related to these initial groups, and by the arrival of similar self-sacrificing persons from still other religious orders and congregations.

In 1672, after four years of missionary work on the shores of Guam, Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores, a Spanish Jesuit priest was killed for baptising the dying daughter of a local chief. He is considered the protomartyr of the Marianas. A French Marist priest, St. Peter Chanel, was martyred in 1841 on Futuna, after a brief apostolate on the island. He is regarded as the first saint and patron of Oceania. Another missionary and martyr of Oceania is Blessed Giovanni Mazzucconi of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions of Milan (PIME), who was martyred in 1855 on Woodlark Island in Papua New Guinea. Bishop Jean-Baptiste Epalle, a Marist and first Vicar Apostolic of Melanesia, was the first bishop to be the victim of violence. After being attacked by indigenous tribesmen on the island, he died in 1844 on the ship which brought him to San Isabel in the Solomon Islands.

The martyrdom of these missionaries points to the many sacrifices which men and women endured for the sake of spreading God's Kingdom, e.g., long and difficult sea voyages, separation from distant homelands, isolation and loneliness, the tropical climate with its devastating sicknesses, thick forests and mountainous terrain, unfamiliar food and poor housing, and often violence from the indigenous tribes, all of which sometimes led to an untimely death. Some missionaries drowned while attempting to cross rivers and seas to bring the sacraments or medical help to those in need.

At present, international orders and congregations, oftentimes having indigenous members, continue to work side by side with indigenous congregations in various parts of Oceania, so as to contribute to the growth and the vitality of the Church and Her mission to human society. An outstanding example of apostolic activity and religious life was given by Mother Mary McKillop (1842-1909), an Australian, beatified in 1995. Foundress of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, she and her sisters, along with many other men and women religious, particularly from Ireland, England and France, responded generously to the great need for Catholic education in Australia and the colonies of the region. Until well after the Second World War, the Catholic school system in Oceania was almost entirely staffed by religious men and women.

So many others--known and unknown--illustrate through their life and work the heroism of the missionaries in founding and serving Catholic Communities in Oceania. Many died or suffered greatly in the service of evangelisation as they endured times of hardship, the most recent being the Second World War. Their lives of sacrifice and generosity will always be recalled by Christians of any age as a lasting, encouraging example to live the faith, and their prayerful intercession will be a sustaining force in the preparation and celebration of this Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania.

Oceanians as Missionaries

8. Since the beginning of the Church's missionary efforts in the region, foreign missionaries needed and solicited the help of local men and women. They trained catechists to work with them, to translate their sermons and instructions, to prepare the people for the sacraments, to teach them to pray and to serve the local Christian communities through their spiritual leadership. Often these local men and their families accompanied the missionaries as they established new missions in other parts of Oceania. Like the missionaries from Europe who followed the missionary example of Jesus Christ, they left home and family to live among foreign peoples and cultures.

A great example of these devoted catechists is Peter To Rot of New Britain (Papua New Guinea), beatified in 1995. During the Second World War, many missionaries were imprisoned by the Japanese occupying forces. Many of them were killed or died from wounds or tropical diseases. At the time, catechists were forbidden to do their work among the local people. Peter To Rot lost his life by refusing to cease teaching and offering religious support to converts.

Shortly after 1840, early attempts to train local clergy on the islands were made by Bishop Pierre Bataillon, Vicar Apostolic of Central Oceania. Though the European model of formation often proved too difficult for seminarians, resulting in some initial failures, more and more local candidates--diocesan and religious--were trained and ordained to the priesthood. Encouraged by the example of some outstanding indigenous priests and bishops, they joined their missionary brothers from overseas. For several years now, numerous local priests and religious, brothers and sisters throughout Oceania are serving their own people.

By following the Gospel more and more and fervently receiving the sacraments, people become more aware of the missionary call which is addressed to the whole Church. In this regard, much depends on Christian families. Christian parents have an important role in offering encouragement to their sons and daughters and in supporting them in their desire to become missionaries, not only in the local Church but in other parts of the world. Many men and women born in Oceania have joined the missionary ranks of local or international congregations, working in other parts of Oceania and in other countries across the world. In this way, the local Churches of Oceania manifest the continual challenge to act in solidarity with the worldwide Catholic Church, to bring the Good News to other nations and thus to walk the way of Jesus, their Master and Model.

What Paul VI said to Catholics in Australia, referring them to Oceania as their wider mission field, can be repeated to all Catholics in Oceania: "Lift up your eyes and look at this vast harvest waiting for its reapers to gather it in (cf. Jn 4:35). Is it possible that your community which has had the great fortune of receiving the grace of the Gospel, which has responded with fervour to the teaching of your priests and which offers the world a noteworthy testimony of faith, fidelity to doctrine, and generosity towards the upkeep of works of the apostolate - is it possible for it not to be at the same time a land of missionaries?"(5)




9. Whenever people's lives are touched by the Gospel and the grace of Jesus Christ, they are transformed. This effect is not limited only to persons. The more people accept Christianity and live it in their lives, the more society and culture are transformed. By nature and necessity, a person is a member of a human society. The values held by the members of that society, the customs which they follow, the beliefs they have, the language they speak, the stories they tell, the way they organise their work, their time, and above all, the way they express their ideological and religious convictions, all comprise their way of life, their culture. The Church has a deep respect for every culture. At the same time, the Gospel She preaches makes unique challenges on culture in an attempt to elevate, enrich and purify it. By being received into a particular culture, the Gospel is expressed and lived in a certain manner, which itself becomes a means of proclaiming the Gospel to others.

Cultural Variety

10. Oceania is characterised by a variety of cultures. People of various cultures live together in the same territory, often dwelling very close to one another. These cultures are not only the indigenous cultures of the Pacific Islands, New Zealand and Australia, but also the cultures brought from Europe and those developed during the years of colonisation, migration, and the struggle for autonomy. This cultural variety can be illustrated particularly through language. In addition to the hundreds of indigenous languages, some languages have developed and been accepted as communal languages. English and French, though inherited from Western Europe, are for the most part accepted as the official languages in Oceania, each being appropriated in its own way. In Melanesia the pidgin languages, with their own flavour and richness of expression, have developed to bridge the European and the local languages.

This same variety of cultures can also be seen in the Church. The missionaries brought a Catholic faith which was linked to various nations and cultures, primarily European. By necessity, they taught the faith through these cultural models and trained their converts to express the faith in the same manner. In a positive ecumenical climate, the various religious cultures of other denominations have had an impact on the Catholic communities living close to them. These many cultures influence Church life, not only in the words, rites and songs of the liturgy and in prayers and devotional practices, but also in preaching, in expressing theological concepts and in the organisation and leadership of communities.

The Catholic Church seeks to respect the variety of cultures. In the words of Paul VI: "Far from smothering what is good and original in every culture, in every form of human culture She accepts, respects and puts to use the genius of each people, endowing with variety and beauty the one seamless garment of the Church of Christ."(6) It is a great challenge for the Church to welcome and incorporate this cultural variety into Herself and to bring it to unity and harmony through the mystery of communion. Where cultures are respected, contact with each other can be profitable. One culture can learn from another; it can oftentimes be enriched and even made better.


11. Jesus' message and the Gospel as originally preached by the apostles had many features of the Jewish culture of the day. At the same time, their teaching was different from that culture because, with its new values and priorities, it challenged customary practices and beliefs. Wherever the Word of God is preached and welcomed, this dual dynamic is at work. The existing culture with its positive aspects, its "seeds of the Word",(7) its germs of truth and justice, is fostered, becoming, as it were, a new language into which God's Word is translated. At the same time, the existing culture is challenged by the Gospel and is gradually converted. The positive elements of that culture then provide assistance in further preaching God's message to the people of that same culture.

This process of inculturation is part of the Church's work of evangelisation in all the cultures of Oceania. Pope John Paul II, in his "Allocution to the Aboriginal people of Australia" said: "The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ speaks all languages. It esteems and embraces all cultures. It supports them in everything human and, when necessary, it purifies them. Always and everywhere the Gospel uplifts and enriches cultures with the revealed message of a loving and merciful God."(8)

The Gospel was proclaimed in Oceania by means of European cultural expressions which were foreign to indigenous people. Some forms and elements of this inculturated Gospel have disappeared and have been replaced by indigenous forms and elements. Today, the tendency is to look at these cultural forms and elements to see if they cannot be creatively translated and transformed so as to provide an opportunity for renewal in the local Church. When it was originally preached in Oceania, the Gospel challenged the imperfect or negative elements of the local culture. It required, and still requires, great wisdom to discern the positive and the negative elements in the process of inculturation. According to Pope John Paul II, the two criteria to be followed in sound inculturation are: 1) compatibility with the basic elements of the Gospel, and 2) promotion of communion with the universal Church.(9)

Many positive traditional values are present in Oceania and influence the life of the Church. At the same time, some modern developments are threatening these traditional values. Other developments, if critically appraised and treated, have the potential of breathing new life into them. All such positive values have the potential to enrich and enhance human life and culture in Oceania.

The Church's expression of Her life of faith in symbols and rites is linked to the culture of the person who receives the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Traditional stories and symbols, music and dance, rites and celebrations, all of which are expressions of human memory and imagination, are deeply part of the cultures of Oceania. Through a proper application of inculturation, the Church seeks to incorporate elements of a particular culture into Her liturgy, devotional practices, catechesis and sacred art. In this way, She expresses faith in God and communion among the faithful. While local cultural traditions can be enhanced by their being elevated by the Church, through the dual dynamic of inculturation, they can also be purified of negative elements in the process.

A particular challenge for the Church in Melanesia is the phenomenon of "cargo cult". Economic development and social and political changes in recent times have brought advancement to the indigenous people, but also cultural difficulties. Traditional stories of prosperity, lost or forfeited, are connected with biblical promises of a new world of justice and wealth. "Cargo cult"-thinking expresses itself, at times, in dangerous social, political and religious movements. This phenomenon is a particular challenge for the Church in Oceania in its catechesis and pastoral care of indigenous people.

In theological reflection, a mentality conditioned by a certain culture is a real challenge for the Church. When faithful to the truth as revealed in Jesus Christ and taught by the Church, such an experience can bring positive results, thus enriching the living Catholic theological tradition and allowing the Truth to be expressed in a new, local way.

Theological thinking in Oceania takes into consideration not only the traditional cultures, but also modern developments like industrialisation, secularisation, ecumenical dialogue and the enriching contact with other religions and philosophies. Oceania has a good number of theologians and spiritual writers whose work is recognised internationally. Their contributions to theological research and spiritual reflection are important for the growth of the Church in the area.

Part of the task of evangelisation in Oceania requires committed Christians to go beyond their own culture and encounter various other cultures in the region. In sharing the saving power of God's truth, grace and love with these cultures, they grow in their appreciation and understanding of these same gifts, and thus continue to walk faithfully the way of Jesus Christ.

Ethnic Minorities and Indigenous Peoples

12. Among the various cultural groups of Oceania, some ethnic communities are in the minority. Some of these originally made up whole populations, but have become a minority through successive waves of immigration, e.g., the Aborigines in Australia and the Maoris in New Zealand. Others are not strictly a minority, but feel unjustly treated, e.g., the Kanak people in New Caledonia. In some cases, two groups of people, forming almost equal parts of a particular population, feel threatened by each other, e.g., the indigenous Fijians and the Fiji-Indians in Fiji. Other minority groups are clusters of recent immigrants or refugees.

The Church recognizes Her responsibility in this area and is engaged in protecting those who suffer social injustice. Special care for threatened minority groups is a consequence of the preferential love for the poor in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Though the Church is not a political entity, She has a role to play in forming Her faithful in Her social doctrine. She teaches and encourages not only Her members but all civil authorities to be aware of their responsibility to address social injustice against ethnic minorities.(10)

Some ethnic minority groups are painfully struggling to preserve or revive their culture. Pope John Paul II has encouraging words for these groups. Though they were originally addressed to the Aboriginal people and use traditional imagery, they can be applied to others as well: "If you are closely united you are like a tree standing in the middle of a bush fire sweeping through the timber. The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred and burned: but inside the tree, the sap is still flowing and under the ground the roots are still strong. Like that tree you have endured the flames and you still have the power to be reborn. The time of this rebirth is now."(11) Bringing the Gospel to bear on these social and cultural problems is a practical and realistic consequence of walking the way of Jesus Christ.

Migration and Tourism

13. In past centuries, the island people of Oceania were already known for their migratory movements. Sometimes, persons moved about on their own accord for reasons of conquest, to prevent over-population or to escape violence. At other times, they were forced to leave their home islands so as to work on plantations or in mining ventures on other islands. In later years, such labourers were recruited from other colonial territories, mainly from Asia. The traditional tendency of the Polynesian people to move from island to island was certainly helpful when missionaries sought local assistants to establish new missions in other parts of Oceania.

Today, there is a great migration of people not simply within the region, but coming from the outside as well. Many Pacific Islanders move to Australia or New Zealand for economic or social reasons. Others are motivated by the prospect of better opportunities in education and work, greater access to modern commodities or more individual freedom and human rights. New Zealand and Australia have traditionally attracted immigrants from Europe, particularly since the end of World War II. At present, more Asians are coming to both countries, thereby contributing to an increasing cultural variety. Among these immigrants are political or economic refugees searching for freedom, justice and prosperity. Many of them find that the Church and Her structures provide a warm environment and a source of security and identity.

In some places, the increasing number of migrants from different cultures is calling for the Church's attention. In the past, the Church has always attempted to provide for the pastoral care of migrants. Consideration needs to be given as to whether these migrants can be said to be a properly constitutive part of the local community in a multi-cultural Church and society. Any pastoral plan would have to determine whether these migrants are on the periphery awaiting assimilation into the predominant culture or whether these migrants are a more permanent part of the culture, requiring their own ministries, e.g., national parishes, or designated parishes which offer as part of their ministry, an apostolate to ethnic groups. As a result of migration, Eastern Catholic Churches, with their own dioceses, parishes and traditions, exist in some parts of Oceania, enriching the Church's witness and presence in society in the area of culture.

In Oceania, another increasingly significant social phenomenon related to the movement of peoples is tourism. Modern tourism is no longer just an activity for the few, but an industry in which thousands of people participate. For the tourists themselves, this industry provides a service; for the many employees, work and an income. Many places in Australia and New Zealand, not to mention the many Pacific Islands with their splendid features of nature and the traditional culture of hospitality, have become attractive tourist resorts. While the influence of this industry on the local economy has advantages, it is not always beneficial to the environment, the culture, or the moral and spiritual values of the inhabitants.

The Church in Oceania, proclaiming a Gospel of hope and joy, seeks to address these modern realities of migration and tourism. When left outside the traditional pastoral system of parishes and chaplaincies, these movements of people can easily create social areas where the Gospel has little access.

Urbanisation and Industrialisation

14. Relatively speaking, Australia is one of the more urbanised countries of the world. New Zealand also has great urban areas, and numerous Pacific Island nations are developing their capital cities. These urban areas are attracting massive numbers of people who believe living in big cities promises ultimate freedom, boundless variety and great prosperity. However, when such people do not succeed in their dream, these same cities suffer not only from a rapid growth in population but also from an increasing percentage of jobless and poor people. Situations created by unemployment, poverty, individualism, tough competition and sometimes inadequate education to attain their goals, are for some people too much to endure. Some young people, coming from rural villages, find in these urban areas an apparent easy solution to their problems by joining criminal gangs or in practicing immoral professions, like prostitution.

After moving to the city, some people fall away from the Church because they perceive the Church as a community for the higher ranks of society. In their present situation, they see themselves as not belonging to any class. Going out in the footsteps of Jesus, Who Himself became poor, to meet the urban poor is the concern of every Church member. Where offering material assistance to the poor is one of the traditional tasks of the Christian community, the Church also speaks out on the injustice of certain socio-economic developments. Catholic citizens and politicians are called upon to put the Church's social doctrine into action by devising ways to address socio-economic problems. In this manner, individual Christians and whole Christian communities can walk the way of Jesus Christ and meet the needs of the poor.

Today in Oceania, urbanisation goes hand in hand with secularisation. In Australia and New Zealand, with a basically Western culture, and in many Pacific Island nations, there seems to be a tendency among the people to adopt a way of life in which religion is marginal. A great difference is seen between the secularised way of life in the big cities and the traditional village or rural life-style. This trend to secularisation increasingly inclines people towards subjectivism and freedom from religious authority in many areas of culture, e.g., marriage and family, morality, education, politics, economy, social communications and artistic expression. For many people, this movement from village to city leads to a loss of traditional religious faith and practice. In reference to secularisation, Pope John Paul II said to the New Zealand bishops: "The sense of God and of his loving Providence has diminished for many individuals and even for whole sectors of society."(12)

While secularisation creates problems for Christian faith and practice, it also provides new challenges. The increase in personal and social freedom is an invitation to a greater sense of responsibility and mature decision-making. This situation requires creative theological approaches, meaningful worship and rituals, a balanced practice of spirituality and devotion, personal rectitude, application of the Church's social teaching, responsible religious organisation, appropriate charitable activity and a deeper look at more contemporary forms of ministry. To face adequately this new cultural reality, the Church has to walk the way of Jesus Christ with courage, patience and wisdom.



Introduction: Christ The Truth

15. "What is truth?" (Jn 18: 38) was the question that tortured Pilate's conscience. Truth is the question which stirs every human conscience; for it is in finding the truth that a person arrives at a reason for living and sets out on a way of life worthy to be followed. Christian life begins at Baptism, initiating a person into the faith. This faith answers Pilate's question, "What is truth?" It is the only satisfying response to Paul's question on the road to Damascus, "Who are you, Lord?" (Acts 9:5). The reply to the question of truth is "personal", not simply because a "person" makes a commitment to follow a set of ideas, a philosophy of life or some programme for self-fulfillment, but also because it involves the "Person" of Jesus Christ. Even before uttering a word, Christ gave His answer to Pilate's question, because He Himself is Truth. "For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice" (Jn 18:37). Christ's voice addressed Paul directly, "person to person", inviting him to change his life by re-directing his whole existence: "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:5). The truth, then, is none other than Jesus Christ Himself: "I am the way, and the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6).

The Church's task today is to continue Christ's mission as witness to the truth. The world-wide challenge for the Church is to tell His truth by preaching His Good News so that it can be heard anew, calling the world, in these days approaching the Third Millennium, to faith, conversion, and the fullness of life in God. "In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear [...] Christ the Lord fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling."(13) Pope John Paul II's call for a "new evangelisation" intends to make Christ known throughout the whole world.

A crucial stage in that programme is the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania so that the Church in the region can say with St. Paul, "...the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you--so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 1:6-7). With Her eyes fixed on the Lord of History, who will be fully revealed only at the end of time, the Church in Oceania wants to assess Her fidelity to the Gospel and to continue the renewal set in motion by the Second Vatican Council, all in light of the Third Millennium. Pope Paul VI explained the reason why evangelisation--telling the Gospel truth--must be the Church's first priority today. "The conditions of the society in which we live oblige all of us therefore to revise methods, to seek by every means to study how we can bring the Christian message to modern man. For it is only in the Christian message that modern man can find the answer to his questions and the energy for his commitment of human solidarity."(14)

The aim of the Special Assembly is to draw upon the energy of the Gospel in order to renew the Church's life in Oceania so that it will "bear fruit for the life of the world."(15) The power of the Gospel can penetrate not only the conscience of individual persons but it can transform cultures and the social structures that sustain them as well. In this process, each local Church is "an evangelised and evangelising community."(16)



Proclaiming the Gospel

16. Evangelisation is the activity of spreading the Gospel to the whole world, just as the disciples were commanded by our Risen Lord (cf. Mk 16:15). It is essentially telling the truth of Jesus Christ as the way of salvation for humanity. The Gospel is proclaimed in its simplest everyday form by the witness of life of individual Christians. In other words, when the life of a believer accords with the Gospel, when it rings true and is genuine, those who have never met Christ are made to question themselves about the ultimate meaning of life, of their final destiny and why Christ makes such a difference in the lives of His followers.

Witness of life also demands that Christ's Gospel be explicitly proclaimed as "the defence ...for the hope that is in you..." (1 Pt 3:15). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the proclamation of the word of life calls people to faith and conversion. Christ is the foundation (cf. 1 Cor 3:11; Col 2:7) on which the Church as the community of believers is built. This telling of the truth of Jesus Christ in a public proclamation is evangelisation in the strict sense. The Church evangelises Her members through the celebration of the sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and, enlivened by this intimate union with Christ, radiates the Christian message into the world. "The test of truth,"(17) says Pope Paul VI, is whether the evangelised community evangelises others, whether it calls others into the Kingdom of God's beloved Son in the power of the Spirit.

The particular Churches in Oceania were, for the most part, established by missionaries from Europe and America. They are part of the heritage of those continents, but they are not "European" or "American" particular Churches. It is sometimes difficult for people in Europe or America to appreciate the relatively recent and wonderful gift of God to these younger Churches born under the Southern Cross. They are not just reproductions of a Christianity which is foreign to the region. These particular Churches have their own uniqueness and culture. They have shown their own vitality and creative capacities in dealing with a secularised society, as well as their own missionary outreach in the Pacific, Papua New Guinea, South East Asia, Latin America and Africa, forging their identity over time in terms of the cultures of the nations where they were born.

The present moment is a crucial one, because the newer nations in the region are now seeking to strengthen their identity in the political, cultural and religious fields. This means that they are more and more assuming new rights and obligations. In the process, the Church has the opportunity and duty to provide moral guidance. A great opportunity in the programme of evangelisation will be lost, if the local Churches in the region do not seize the occasion to allow the Gospel to resonate in each cultural setting.

Today's Challenges

17. In some places in Oceania today, missionary activity is in decline and sometimes put in question. Such a state of affairs was addressed by Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio. "For in the Church's history," he writes, "missionary drive has always been a sign of vitality, just as its lessening is a sign of a crisis of faith."(18) St. Paul underlines the necessity of telling the truth of Jesus Christ so that all the peoples of the world, of whatever culture--traditional or secular--may come to the faith and witness to it in their lives. "But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?" (Rom 10:14). If the Gospel is to grow in the cultures of Oceania, all in the Church need to become more aware of the missionary nature of the Church and find ways to share in the Church's mission. For some generous men and women, this will mean responding to God's call to the vocation to be a missionary who goes forth to tell the truth of Jesus Christ for all to hear.

In a practical way, missionaries are still needed in many places to help the younger Churches achieve more autonomy in terms of local personnel and leadership, and of infra-structure and finance. The developed countries also need evangelisers with a missionary spirit to tell the truth of Jesus Christ, so that their secular cultures may hear His voice--as if for the first time--with joy, welcoming it in the words of the psalm, "O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth" (Ps 96:1)!

The problems of evangelisation experienced in developing and developed countries in Oceania are not very different. The secularisation affecting the developed countries is also influencing island and indigenous communities. While most of them still maintain their local cultural identity, which evangelisation must take into account, they too are undergoing modern, secularising trends. Both types of society need missionaries who are able to address each distinct situation.

The difficulties facing evangelisation come not only from challenges to the faith but from the crisis in culture as well. When social institutions in a culture experience change, the Church is challenged as well.This is an inevitable consequence of the Church's living in a particular cultural environment Some of the major changes in society, posing real challenges for evangelisation, are the following: the increased impact of government and the economy on life; the over-emphasis on democracy and personal choice; the abuses of a market economy; liberal or individualistic types of philosophy; the strains placed on the institution of marriage and family life; lack of a sense of the spiritual; the negative influence of the mass media on individual and social behaviour, etc..

To deal with these challenges from society, the Church has the truth of the Gospel and Christ's mandate to preach the Gospel to every creature. Her history embraces generations of bishops, clergy, religious and laity dedicated to telling the Good News. She has established innumerable institutions, particularly the Catholic school system, to hand on the faith. Her hospitals and health care programmes are one example of how the Gospel of charity is lived in ways which meet human need, suffering and death. There is "a cloud of witnesses"(Heb 12:1) to Gospel values in the home, in the workplace, in the various professions and in civil life. Nevertheless, in many ways the Church is feeling the strain of transmitting the Gospel to this evolving new world.

Kerygma:The Initial Proclamation of the Gospel

18. The first telling of the Gospel truth was Christ's call to conversion as described early in Mark's Gospel: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mk 1:14). The Kingdom of God is now. This is the time for people to extend their hand to take hold of their salvation. However, certain barriers arising from society can frustrate the attempts of many people of good will to respond to the call for conversion. In this sense, the difficulties of culture imply difficulties for faith, challenging the Church to undertake a "new evangelisation" of culture.

As She undertakes this task to make the initial proclamation of the Truth, Her efforts are sometimes met with resistance, and even open hostility. At other times, strong social forces try to devise ways of relegating the Church to the realm of private life, so that Her preaching can have no influence on political life and public policy. This is what has been referred to as the divorce of Christ and culture. In some places in Oceania, there are philosophies of life which tend to neutralise the Christian message and its effect on law, social institutions and customs, so that society can function wholly independently of the Christian faith.

Such a state of affairs has its effect on the Church's members, who by necessity are influenced by culture and receive a certain amount of their formation from it. Oftentimes, the faithful hear the Gospel in society's terms and not as the Church and Her Tradition understand it. The issue is further complicated by the number of philosophies "on sale" in the intellectual marketplace, philosophies which are totally incompatible with the Gospel. The confusion which results from this situation evokes thoughts of the Old Testament story of Babel (cf. Gen 11:9). The need for the Spirit in these cultures can be dramatically illustrated in many people's moral lives and consciences. Pope John Paul II points out, "It is at the heart of the moral conscience that the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, with all its various consequences for life, is taking place."(19)

Such a plurality of values leads to ethical relativism and has a destructive impact on evangelisation.(20) Many people in their search for meaning are experimenting with all kinds of value-systems. They are in search for sure moral guidance, but they are uncertain as to how to resolve their questioning. This confusion, permeating pluralistic societies, can at times be seen in diminishing Mass attendance, abandonment of sacramental practice and other manifestations. Many are unable to see the undeniable connection between the Church's faith in Jesus Christ and Her social mission to help construct and improve society. Regrettably, statistics show that, in some developed countries, the number of those leaving institutionalised religion and even declaring themselves atheists--or not belonging to any religion--is on the rise.

Vatican Council II

19. The renewal begun by the Second Vatican Council provides the sure way to follow in the Church's new evangelisation, an endeavour which has already had many positive effects. The Council can be considered "a new Pentecost" for the Church, a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church to enliven, guide and strengthen Her as She seeks ways to bring the Truth to modern culture. For example, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World and the Decree on Religious Liberty have promoted an understanding of the faith as a free, mature and personal commitment in conscience to Christ, which has to be lived out in a changing world. " will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (Jn 8:32).

The mistaken separation of faith from life does not exist for those who have properly understood the Council's message. The Spirit is indeed present and at work in Oceania, indicating new ways for the Church to tell the truth of Jesus Christ in a secular society, some of which are: a renewed liturgy in the vernacular; continuing efforts to improve the presentation of the faith at national and diocesan levels; new catechetical texts and courses for catechists; the introduction of adult education in the faith and the involvement of many dedicated catechists preparing the coming generation of Catholics, particularly for the sacraments; new spiritual movements and the growth of retreat centres and houses of prayer; the possibility of a university education in theology for laity and religious; study and action groups on the Church's social teaching; Bishops' statements on social questions and the involvement of Church organisations in justice and peace initiatives in the wider society; an awareness of the importance of indigenous cultures for religion and spirituality; systematic theological reflection on local realities.

Catechesis: Growing in the Faith

20. In the work of evangelisation, the programme of formation through which persons grow and deepen their knowledge of the faith is called catechesis. To accomplish this task for Her members, the Church in Oceania--similar to every local Church around the world--seeks new ways of expressing the faith which resonate to the positive sensitivities of contemporary culture, while remaining faithful to Scripture, the Church's doctrine and Tradition. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is seen by many as a welcome source of guidance in determining the content of catechetics and a useful tool in helping people come to a deeper understanding of the faith. In those areas of the Church in Oceania where there is a seeming lack of proper knowledge of what the Church teaches, it is considered of great importance.

Mindful of the words of St. Jerome who says, "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ,"(21) the tendency today is to give more prominence to Scripture in catechesis. The Second Vatican Council emphasised its essential character: "It follows that all the preaching of the Church, as indeed the entire Christian religion, should be nourished and ruled by Sacred Scripture."(22)

In some areas in Oceania, problems can come from a lack of proper catechesis. In such cases, people can bear the name "Catholic" without really seeking to deepen the faith in their personal lives. By necessity, the call to faith needs to be followed by a more thorough explanation of the faith. In this regard, much work remains to be done in writing national and local catechisms.

The dissent of some individuals and groups from the Church's official teachings, e.g., with regards to contraception, in vitro fertilisation and other moral teaching, is a counter witness to the one and only truth of the Gospel. It can have various negative effects on the faithful, oftentimes obscuring the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Saviour. A unified approach in catechesis by clergy, religious and laity would be of great assistance in combating dissent as well as its harmful effects.

Another worrying factor in the catechetical field is the situation where many youths, who were initiated into and frequented the sacraments in primary school, abandon the practice during the secondary level of education, in some cases, displaying a great resistance to catechesis. Where these persons sometimes return to Church practice because of preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage or instructions related to the reception of sacraments for their children, a great many, because of cultural factors, are left with little opportunity for contact with the Church. Such a situation calls for all in the Church, especially those in families, parishes and catechetics, to witness to the love of Christ, the Good Shepherd (cf. Jn 10:11ff).

In the contemporary world, the Church is constantly being challenged to reach people formed in a society attuned to secular values. It is often difficult for Her to find a platform in secular society from which to present Her saving message. The mass media, especially the press and television, are precisely intended to be the means of reaching all levels and groups in society today. Regretably, their use is sometimes for purely economic interests. The Church is seeking to take advantage of the various modern technology provided by the mass media in Her programme of evangelisation. Even though the media can often be overly critical of the Church, use of the various forms of social communication is a necessity in order to preach Christ to vast communities, Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and non-believers alike.

Ways of telling the truth of Jesus Christ in the predominantly secular culture are still largely to be worked out. Christ promised His disciples His presence, "I am with you always" (Mt 28:20) through His Spirit to "guide you into all the truth" (Jn 16:12). The Special Assembly for Oceania is a special gift of God so that the Church in Oceania may "hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev 2:7) in order to meet present-day challenges.




21. Ecumenism is high on the scale of priorities for the Church in Oceania. The Second Vatican Council underlined how lack of unity among the followers of Christ has a negative effect on the work of evangelisation. "Many Christian communities present themselves to men as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but they differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ Himself were divided. Certainly such division contradicts the will of Christ, scandalises the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching of the Gospel to every creature."(23) Recently, the Holy Father has renewed the Church's commitment to ecumenism in his Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, in which he treats various aspects of the desire and movement towards greater unity between Christians.(24)

In response to the prayer of Christ, "that they may be one" (Jn 17:22) and in keeping with the vision of the Holy Father, the bishops of Oceania have in various ways sought contact and friendly relations with the leaders and people of other Christian communities. This has been done by means of personal visits, mixed commissions, and joint study or action projects. At the worldwide level, bishops have taken part in dialogue and the study of doctrine with others, e.g., Anglicans, Methodists etc., under the guidance of the Holy See. In many places in Oceania, the Catholic Church has become a member of the local or regional Council of Churches.

Contact between Churches at the local level has been very efficacious in bringing about an understanding of the use of Scripture and the liturgical and spiritual traditions of the various Churches, and has lead to mutual support in the faith. The Church's challenge--and at the same time opportunity--arises when people, united in a common culture, are divided by different beliefs and ways of worship. In some cases, possibilities exist for communities to pray together, to visit each other's services and sometimes to unite in common projects of evangelisation and social action. At times, for mutual understanding, there has been sharing of resources for the education of lay leaders, catechists, and even clergy and religious. In many ways, the Catholic Church has been enriched by this experience and encouraged to proclaim Christ along with Her brothers and sisters in the faith. Working to come to an agreement on burning problems, e.g., abortion and euthanasia, and, if possible, to have a common policy to propose these positions to governments and society-at-large, is another way of working towards strengthening ecumenical bonds, while witnessing to the truth.

In an increasingly secular society where attempts are being made to marginalise Christianity and where faith is individualistic and morality made relative, ecumenical collaboration brings benefit not only to the credibility of the respective communities, but to the nation's spiritual and moral health. The fellowship between the Church and Christian Communities in Oceania seems to have brought about positive effects in civil society. Religious prejudice has largely disappeared, thus helping to witness to the unity desired by Christ (cf. Jn. 17:22). Christian charity has been better esteemed by people-at-large, bearing fruit in an improvement in social relationships as well.

Despite the positive effects in many parts of Oceania, ecumenism still remains a challenge. There is a rather diffuse feeling that the project of Christian unity, in obedience to the will of Christ, is not moving fast enough, and some would even think that it has broken down. There is impatience in some parts to see real signs of sacramental unity between the Churches. "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph 4:5). Some people cannot understand why differences of doctrine still cause deep division and cannot be reconciled. Practical problems still exist as regards admission to the sacraments on the part of other Christians, e.g., in ecumenical marriages. The presence of large communities of Orthodox Christians in the big cities, with considerable numbers of their students attending Catholic schools, provides opportunities to seek better relations between the Churches.

Interreligious Dialogue

22. Relationships with non-Christian religions is a pressing issue in some areas. For example, leaders from both the Christian and Jewish communities often meet for fruitful discussions. Such theological dialogue has lead to a better insight into Jewish tradition and practice. At the same time, large groups of Muslims or Hindus, living in neighbourhoods, cities or countries, are sometimes misunderstood by the wider community as well as by Christians. Dialogue would be a helpful way to break down barriers of mistrust. The traditional religions of the peoples of Oceania are not only a cause of interest but a source of inspiration as well. However, they can sometimes become a force rivaling Christianity in a given area. In some cases, a danger of syncretism exists in the blending of traditional religion with Christianity. At the same time, studying the religious values of these peoples has led many Christians to a better appreciation of these cultures. For example, the Australian aborigines have a form of religion which is probably the oldest known to humanity. It has monotheistic features which render it of great importance to the Church in Her understanding of indigenous cultures and in Her evangelising mission.(25)




23. Sects and new religious movements are a common feature in today's world. The Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue in collaboration with other Offices of the Roman Curia, has included them in its wide field of interests.(26) In Oceania, this phenomenon is an area of concern for the Church because their false doctrines attract many unsuspecting and impressionable persons both in the Church and society, thereby subjecting many families, and sometimes whole communities, to division and difficulties.

Recently, it seems this phenomenon has reached new proportions, particularly as it relates to the Church. In various parts of Oceania, the close-knit groups of the sects seem to offer a warm, emotional experience to some Catholics who have never been able to attain a similar experience at the Church's liturgical services. Music, song, dance, private revelations, visions and speaking in tongues play an important part in attracting persons, particularly youth, to these sects. To persons in search of stability in a rapidly changing world, they teach fundamentalist doctrines which often provide a false security in rigidly unbending moral codes of conduct. Some sects deliberately and aggressively target the Catholic Church and prey on Her weaker members who, for example, can feel "lost" in larger Church congregations where size sometimes limits personal contact. Once assimilated into a sect, persons will try to bring family and friends with them, usually leading to a very deep split in a family and community.

Given the situation, the challenge facing the Church in Oceania is to seek ways to counteract the effect of these sects and new religious movements, some of which might be: through fostering greater fellowship in Church communities; through providing healing ministries which allow the hurt, the alienated and the emotionally injured to re-integrate their lives through conversion experiences within the Catholic community; through better catechesis in the faith, offering persons not only a greater knowledge of the faith, but also explain the errors in the doctrines of the sects and new religious movements.

Many sects use apocalyptic imagery and messages. Dreams and aspirations are connected with biblical messages completely outside their original context. A biblical fundamentalism distorts a meaningful and authentic understanding of the truth of Jesus Christ. Through their use of Christian symbols and expressions, these sects distort people's desire and need for salvation. The existence of such sects shows how much effort should go into proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ in a sound and liberating way, in accordance with the Church's tradition.

Particular Points

24. Not all the sects and new religious movements in Oceania have Christian roots. Among the more popular are forms of self-improvement that go back to Eastern traditions, such as yoga or Buddhist meditation. Ashrams and centres of Zen or Buddhist meditation can be found as welcomed refuges from the frenetic rush of life in the big city. In their acceptable forms, these often offer help to people in need. However, they may also be the cause of Catholics moving away from their faith for various reasons.

A widely diffused form of contemporary spirituality is New Age. Linked to the process of secularisation, this movement draws elements from the Jewish and Christian traditions as well as from Gnosticism and Oriental religions. Its followers believe that a new consciousness has dawned on the planet which will make all religion and philosophy out-dated. This would seem to be a radical reaction to the lack of values which has come to characterise an industrialised, technological culture of mass consumption and mass communication.

Some sects and new religious movements use aggressive tactics in proselytizing new adherents among the baptised, thereby often doing injustice to persons. Some leave their followers with serious psychological problems. Oftentimes, when persons are successful in leaving a sect or new religious movement, they have an extremely difficult time making a re-entry into society. Since these groups play on the fear which persons have of a world in which they find it difficult to cope, they are basically turned in upon themselves. On the contrary, the Church, whose Lord promises salvation to each person, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33), offers Her members Christian optimism in facing life in the world.

In many ways, the sects and the new religious movements with their growing influence are a challenge to the Church. An adequate response to this challenge needs to include an initial proclamation of the Gospel to individuals as well as a catechesis of the Church's members, both of which relate to local experiences and desires, and concentrate on fundamental truths rather than secondary theories. In the planning and celebration of Her liturgies and devotional practices, elements deserving of consideration are the following: the emotional needs of participants, inculturated forms, popular devotions, etc..



Working Towards Establishing the Kingdom of God

25. By walking the Way which is Christ, by telling His Truth and Living His Life, the Church contributes to the building of "a civilisation of love", where justice and peace reign. While giving Herself wholeheartedly to this task in the present world, the Church awaits with joyful hope the coming of the final Kingdom when every injustice will be wiped away and all misery will disappear from creation so "that God may be everything to every one" (1 Cor 15:28). The Second Vatican Council states, "Christ did not bequeath to the Church a mission in the political, economic, or social order: the purpose He assigned to it was a religious one."(27) Through the Church's preaching the Light of the Gospel shines on people, so that in their becoming believers in Christ, the Saving Light can penetrate and illuminate secular realities through them.

The mission of the Church in the world is summed up in the following statement: "In pursuing Her own salvific purpose not only does the Church communicate divine life to men but in a certain sense She casts the reflected light of that divine life over all the earth, notably in the way She heals and elevates the dignity of the human person, in the way She consolidates society, and empowers the daily activity of men with deeper sense and meaning."(28) The Church's members are to be the leaven in the world so as to renew and transform every worthy part of society according to the will of Christ. "This religious mission can be the source of commitment, direction and vigour to establish and consolidate the community of men according to the law of God."(29)

There are many indications that the Church in Oceania has taken to heart Her mission to transform society and its social structures with the power of the Gospel. The establishment of many Justice and Peace commissions at local and national levels has lead to programmes which explain and propagate the Church's social teaching. At the practical level, these commissions have defended the human dignity of the person, condemned racial discrimination and fostered human development programmes. Furthermore, they have made submissions to governments, particularly in favour of the poor and disadvantaged, and pointed out the political, social and economic causes of injustice. At the same time, they have confronted some timely subjects in Oceania, e.g., international agreements which leave smaller or weaker nations at an economic and political disadvantage, economic discrimination, a situation where one nation or section of society benefits at the expense of others, the problem in the developed countries of an ever-widening gap between the rich and poor, the need for an ethic of responsibility and social justice in industry, commerce and banking, particularly concerning the wages of workers in relation to world markets, and the attitudes and practices of more developed countries towards lesser developed ones in relation to global economies. In a concrete manner, the Church's social aid agencies in the area have given monetary and material assistance to many groups, families and individuals, especially after natural disasters.

Where the phenomenon of a global economy is bringing social and cultural benefits to many parts of Oceania, it is also causing people to make major adjustments in their lives, some of which are difficult to face. For example, unemployment and lack of opportunity for work is on the rise in many areas of Oceania, causing hardship to persons, families and whole communities. Particularly affected in this regard are the young who can easily grow discouraged and disillusioned, and thus turn to unethical forms of behaviour or even to taking their own lives, a trend which is on the rise in some parts of Oceania. The social doctrine of the Church has much to offer governments and companies in their working with others to formulate sound policies and educational programmes in relation to employment practices which can benefit not only the person, but society.

The most significant event in the recent history of Oceania was the Second World War, which caused many changes in the region. As a result, parts of Oceania, because of their geographic position, still maintain political, economic and strategic links with the U.S.A., Japan and South East Asia. At the same time, the countries of the region are increasingly cooperating among themselves and with others in plans for development. In such plans towards development, the Church, according to words of Pope John Paul II,(30) adds to the factor of the economy, those of human values and integral human development, that is, consideration of the spiritual, religious, social, educational, cultural as well as material well-being of the person and whole populations.

In some places in Oceania, the Church has a special and indeed privileged role as peacemaker. Her mediation is being called upon in disputes between tribal or racial groups, sometimes between central governments and separatist movements, sometimes in strike situations and employment disputes. Where possible, in the name of the Gospel, the Church offers Her good services to bring peace to communities through Christ's message of reconciliation and forgiveness. Christ, "Our Peace" (Eph 2:14) is the one who can "create in body..." (Eph 2:15) through the power of His Cross by breaking down the walls of division among peoples.

Responsibility for Creation

26. Persons and groups of persons are not the only concern of Justice and Peace initiatives. Creation, i.e., all life on the planet and the material conditions which sustain it, is also affected by human behaviour, in particular economic activities, e.g., industrialisation, mining, exploration for oil, logging, farming. etc.. Sometimes, if left unchecked, these activities can harm, if not destroy, whole parts of the environment. In Oceania, many animal and plant species have already been destroyed, and others are endangered. In Her teaching on the universal destination of goods, the Church teaches respect and responsibility in the use of creation.

Besides environmental concerns, governments and companies need to take into consideration in their economic policy and practices the culture and customs of the variety of peoples in the Pacific, e.g., cattle grazers, sheep raisers, grain growers, loggers, fishermen, etc.. In her pastoral programmes, the Church also wishes to be sensitive to their unique needs resulting from circumstances related to their work, e.g., feelings of isolation and loneliness, great distances separating them from others, threatened way of life, economic pressure, etc.

Pollution of the environment as a side-effect of an industrial society is also a concern, especially since certain parts of Oceania are still in their natural state. At present, with the development of industry, contamination of streams, land and sea is on the increase. Major cities face the ill effects of vehicle emissions on the health of the population. Scientists have raised the critical issue of the depletion of the ozone layer over Antarctica and the Southern Oceans, a concern not only to the people of Oceania but to the entire world population. Still to be evaluated are the long-term effects of nuclear testing in the area.



Introduction: New Life in Christ

27. Evangelisation is a process with many aspects. It is initiated by the proclamation of the truth of Jesus Christ. Through evangelisation Christ Himself calls believers into the community of faith in His Church as the New People of God, His Mystical Body in the world. The sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, celebrate and deepen the new life "in Christ" begun in Baptism, whereby persons become children of the Father, God's sons and daughters in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. In virtue of Redemption in Christ, celebrated in the Church's sacraments, the whole of human existence has the potential of being transformed through a profound conversion of heart. St. Paul states, "Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Eph 4:22-24). St. Paul insists on oneness with Christ. "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil 1:21), and "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me..." (Gal 2:20).

The genuine Christian is one who is actively caught up into the experience of a loving relationship with God the Father through intimate union with His Son in a life totally prompted and guided by the Spirit. This total commitment to God comes through a living encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, "who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Rom 4:24). It is an experience involving a real sharing in Christ's death (cf. Col 2:12) and living His life (cf. Col 2:20), whereby spiritual maturity is attained by growing into Christ (cf. Eph 4:15). In this process of transformation, the Spirit is the agent of God's loving design for sanctifying the person, for upbuilding the community of the Church and for transforming the world. The Spirit fills the hearts of believers with love (cf. Rom 5:5), making them a place of joy, peace and patience (cf. Gal 5: 22). It is the same Spirit who at Pentecost inflamed the hearts of the Apostles to proclaim Christ throughout the whole world.



Renewal in Vatican Council II

28. The starting-point for Vatican II's renewal was a new awareness of the Church and Her identity. She is the Light of the Nations, the New People of God, a Pilgrim People being lead by Christ, the Good Shepherd, to Her eternal home, which is in heaven. This image of the Church as the People of God found a spontaneous welcome among the faithful. Such a model suggested the warmth and intimacy of a family and helped foster greater participation of all the members of the Church, particularly the laity.

At the same time, changes were taking place in society which had their effect on attitudes towards the Church, especially in those countries in Oceania having Western values. As a result, some people began to apply democratic procedures and models to living Church life. Some Church members asked themselves whether they had not been released in the Church to follow the many forms of liberation offered by modern, changing societies. On the other hand, some Church members began to complain that the Church had lost, or at least compromised, Her uniqueness before the world. As a result, in some societies, the Church is now attempting a re-examination and re-application of the documents of Vatican II.

The Council's key concept of the Church as the sacrament of unity of God with humanity(31) is essential in this matter. Secularisation has obscured and distorted the idea of the Church as the place where God realises His will and design in history for the world's salvation. The decline in society of a sense of the sacred can oftentimes cloud people's understanding of the Church as the special means chosen by God to achieve humanity's salvation. This lack of a sense of the sacred can also lead people to search for substitute forms of salvation. In the face of these situations, the Church, in faithfulness to Her mission to announce the Gospel, proclaims the eternal truth--salvation comes through Christ alone, "in no other name" (Acts 4:12).

Liturgical Reform

29. The reform of the Church's liturgical life, called for by the Second Vatican Council, was already a beginning in meeting the above challenge. The Council wanted to overcome the separation of faith and life by showing how the celebration of the sacraments sanctify life at every stage, from birth to death. The gestures and actions performed in the liturgy have been reformed to make clear that they are instruments of grace. In the Eucharistic liturgy in particular, this reform emphasised the word-sacrament structure of the liturgical rite and highlighted the theological concept of the Lord's Paschal Mystery, .i.e., the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ commemorated and made present at Mass. Besides the horizontal or social dimension of fellowship and communion through the Liturgy, the vertical or transcendant dimension was presented as well. The Church's worship on earth is already a participation in the heavenly liturgy through the action of Christ, the High Priest.

In the area of the inculturation of liturgy, many local Churches in Oceania are working diligently at discerning how traditional rituals, e.g., cleansing, offering, reconciliation, etc., may be introduced or accommodated to the liturgy, according to the norms laid down by the Church. These liturgical reforms might offer assistance in expressing and signifying more appropriately the new life in Christ offered to the Christian community and its members, and celebrated through the sacraments.

Life through the Sacraments

30. Initiation into the Christian community occurs through Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. By favouring the celebration of Baptism within Mass, with the whole community present, the Church is demonstrating that the sacraments are Her acts, not only for the sanctification of the individual but also for the upbuilding of the whole community into the Body of Christ. A lack of proper understanding of the sacraments can lead to abuses. For example, regarding Baptism, parents sometimes do not readily bring their infants to be baptised, mistakenly deciding to leave the choice of religion to the child when older. Likewise, for some, the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation, the sacrament of adult commitment to the Church and Her mission in the world, often marks the regrettable stage when considerable numbers of young Catholics cease active contact with the Church. Courses of preparation for the sacraments of Baptism, First Confession and Communion, and Confirmation are choice opportunities for evangelising not simply those who will receive the sacrament, but the whole family.

The Eucharist is the high-point of the Church's life where Christ is present in His Word, in the person of the priest and in the worshiping community of the faithful,(32) and in the highest and fullest degree in the consecrated bread and wine, the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, offered in sacrifice and shared in communion. This belief demands the acceptance of certain consequences with regards to preparation, participation, attitudes, expressions, Sunday worship and Church buildings. The sacred character of Sunday, the Day of the Lord, when the Catholic community gathers for the Eucharist, is increasingly being challenged in some places by the introduction of Sunday trading, by vagueness about the Sunday obligation in catechesis, and through the Sunday-scheduling of sporting and entertainment events. In a related matter, some feel that the sense of the Church building as a sacred place of worship, where silence in prayer is observed, is not always evident.

The sacraments realistically confront human frailty and failure, both moral and physical. Western societies in general are witnessing an infrequency in the practice of the sacrament of Penance. In this case, there seems to be many mistaken notions about the need to confess to a priest, the communal effects of sin, the grace of the sacrament, etc.. Major factors in society which are related to this decline are: a general diminishing of assuming personal responsibility for one's actions, over-emphasis on psychological and sociological factors, and a lack of a sense of sin, to mention a few. Proper catechesis is important in helping to reverse this trend.

Changes have also come about with the introduction of the anointing of the sick, formerly called "Extreme Unction", because it was reserved for the dying. The increase in the reception of this sacrament by many people in life-threatening situations, e.g., serious illness, operations, and oftentimes in groups by the elderly, is encouraging. The community celebration of the sacrament is oftentimes a great consolation to the sick, their families, friends and those who care for them. The Mass for the Dead and the renewed funeral rite also bring hope and inspiration to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

The nuptial Mass and the marriage rite portray Christian marriage as a covenant of love, mirroring the love of Christ for His Church. They provide an excellent chance for evangelisation, because people are more disposed at that time to the wonder and goodness of the Church's message. However, in some places, the sacramental character of Marriage is threatened by prevailing attitudes in society, e.g., the acceptance of co-habitation without benefit of marriage, of pre-marital sex, of divorce and remarriage, etc..



God's Gift of Life

31. Life is at the very centre of the Christian message. Christ describes His redemptive mission: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10). God the Creator is the source of life and has dominion over all life. Persons are the stewards of the gift of life from God. This gift is not just a physical or biological reality, but a gift which makes the Giver present. Humanity is created in God's image and called to perfection through communion with God in Christ through the Church. As a result, Christian morality is life-centred morality. It rejoices in vitality, in the fact of being alive, which should lead the person to have a sense of gratitude to God. The whole moral law is not a restriction and a restraint put on natural energy and spontaneous vitality; it is a protection against harm and an indication, a direction-finder, which points towards human fulfillment.

The following passage from Sacred Scripture illustrates the connection of life and law, of morality and happiness with God: "See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, walking in His ways...then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to take possession of it. [...] I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice, and cleaving to Him; for that means life to you and length of days..." (Deut 30:15- 20).

The life which God offers is new and eternal life, life in communion with the Father. Each person is called to this life by the Son, in and through the power of the sanctifying Spirit. It is only in reference to the fullness of life in God that the multiple aspects and stages of development of human life receive their true and integral meaning.

Cultural Attitudes Towards Life

32. In Oceania, people who have maintained their indigenous culture value human life, not just as an individual or present physical reality, but as a dynamic fullness offered in the ancestral community. They easily conceive of God as life in its fullness, shared with them through the ancestors in the community. To live in community is to share life. According to this viewpoint, morality is seen as satisfying the desire to bring life to its fullness. The moral life is a person's movement towards fulfillment in God. For these people, morality is lived in community, and individual responsibility is assumed in view of community life and values. Freedom is understood in relation to the community, to its flourishing or diminishment. There can be such a strong sense of community between the people and God that God may be conceived as owning the life they receive and share from Him.

The understanding of human life in a technological society is vastly different. In this setting, people also rejoice in life, in beauty, in sport, in good health which is sometimes prised even above intellectual and spiritual talents. In a consumer society, however, human life can easily be reduced to a purely biological reality, living matter which can be manipulated in the laboratory or the operating theatre. With this attitude, what is technologically possible oftentimes is considered premissible without any reference to the wondrous mystery of human life meant to blossom in eternity and to the moral imperatives laid down by God. The "technological imperative" means what can be done, should be done! Some scientists have claimed that no moral limits should be put on research and experimentation because that would harm the progress of science, and thus, of society. This is a claim to absolute freedom for science, superior to every other freedom in society. Any implied moral claim in these matters is usually based on utilitarianism: a calculation of the greatest good for the greatest number. Some mistakenly see this as the fulfillment of the Christian commandment of love. Such a claim, however, puts all accepted moral conceptions into doubt when they cannot successfully pass the utilitarian test. In this mentality, birth and death lose their mystery. They no longer manifest the presence of God as the Lord of creation, personally present to every human person. The human person becomes another material entity to be manipulated at will for material ends.

Moral Issues

33. Modern society in its social planning and legislative programmes is increasingly determined to apply technology and the findings of science to as many of its activities as possible. The Church is challenged to find effective ways of making Her moral message heard and applied by governments, scientists and people-at-large.

The Church's concern extends to life in all its stages, aspects and care, from conception to natural death. Bishops' Conferences and individual bishops have spoken on life-issues; they have made submissions to governments and have striven to propagate the Church's teaching in the media. They proclaim the dignity of the human person and the eternal destiny of each person. They have defended the sacredness of human life and the right to life from the first moment of conception. All types of procured abortion have been condemned as a truly horrendous crime afflicting society. Contraception, because it distorts the personal meaning of human sexuality by dividing the act of love from its fecundity, does not fulfill the criteria of responsible parenthood. The bishops have objected to the wilful manipulation of the embryo and its destruction. They have made known the Church's refusal to accept extra-bodily conception in the form of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) as a morally legitimate means of treating infertility.

Euthanasia is the latest issue to surface for public discussion. What is in question is not the legitimate withdrawal of medical treatment of no further benefit to a patient, who is then allowed to die with dignity and in peace. "Euthanasia, in the strict sense, is understood to be an action or omission which, of itself and by intention, causes death, with the purpose of eliminating all suffering."(33) It usually means that another person, usually a doctor, directly and deliberately intervenes to bring about the patient's death. According to God's law, such an action can only be considered either murder or assisted suicide.

The Church's Witness to Life

34. The problems raised by the practice of medicine in hospitals today have lead to the establishment of ethics committees as well as bio-ethics and counseling centres. The Catholic hospital system has contributed much to working towards a solution of the health care problems in communities.The pastoral care of those who are ill has received great inspiration from the teachings and implementation of the rite for the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. In various ways, the Church has shown understanding and compassion in Her apostolates directed towards healing the physical and spiritual wounds of a broken humanity. The distribution of health care funds and resources in communities are a burning social justice question. The Church does not want to see the poor, the weak or the elderly disadvantaged in the competition for scarce health care services and facilities. The fact that hospitals are often managed as a business enterprise makes one fear for the fate of those who cannot afford the services they provide.

The Church has encouraged doctors, nurses and everyone of good will to organise in defence of the right of life.(34) They are to use non-violent methods, for "when, in accordance with their principles, such movements act resolutely, but without resorting to violence, they promote a wider and more profound consciousness of the value of life."(35) Nevertheless, certain legislators and persons in the judiciary, regrettably even some Catholics, give in to the pressures of society in seeking legal respectability for actions which are morally indefensible. There is truth in the principle that violence breeds violence. With the increased killing of the unborn or the terminally ill, there seems to be a proportionate increase in suicides, crimes of assault, domestic violence, sexual exploitation of children and other types of violent acts.

Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae has treated all the above topics within the framework of Scripture and the tradition of the Church's moral teaching. He says, "One of the specific characteristics of present-day attacks on human life--as has already been said several times--consists in the trend to demand a legal justification for them, as if they were rights which the state, at least under certain conditions, must acknowledge as belonging to citizens."(36) By pointing out the necessary conformity of civil with moral law, the Pope shows that laws which legitimate abortion or euthanasia are unjust and cease to be law because they violate the inviolable and inalienable right of every human being to life. This right has been obscured by moral relativism, which denies any such universal binding force to moral concepts. But "it is easy to see that without an objective moral grounding, not even democracy is capable of ensuing a stable peace."(37)

The practical problem arises when dedicated Catholic politicians are faced with voting for or against a bill which would limit the effects of, e.g., an abortion bill already passed. In a pluralistic society, the distinction between licit and illicit cooperation(38) with unjust laws can be expected to be a very actual issue for the Church in the future. Catholic politicians are at the forefront to ensure that Christian values will be, and remain, reflected in legislation. Their efforts deserve encouragement and support.



Cultural Effects

35. The Church defines the family as the first unit of society whose mission is to be "the sanctuary of life"(39) where a husband and wife find personal fulfillment, children are born, nurtured and educated and the elderly cared for. Marriage and family are institutions which are inceasingly feeling the pressure of rapid social change. In many places, they are also the subject of intense legislative action by governments. Oftentimes, legislation is not only a reaction and adjustment to new social realities, but a cause of even more change, usually in the name of people's freedom to choose their own life-style.

For the most part, in the indigenous traditional cultures, which are community-centred, family and marriage experience more support than in typically Western societies. However, some of these societies have inherited sexual and marriage practices not always in accord with the Gospel, e.g., the practice of "bride price," the fact that a marriage must be fertile before it is socially recognised, the subservience of young women in the family, etc.. Easier travel and the growth in wealth, associated with commercial and economic development, often have a negative effect on the institutions of marriage and family.

The Family

36. More and more in Western society , the family as a social institution appears uncertain of its own identity. The world in which children live tends increasingly to separate them from their parents and the home. Education requires specific time and effort as well as well as other activities in life. The absent parent, whether physically or psychologically, is a striking and sad feature of some contemporary societies. The fact that work often dominates parents' time means that children see less of their parents at home. Mothers forced to work sometimes add to the difficulty. In most societies today, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for parents and children to know each other properly so as to form a family community.

The situation of the family is further threatened by attitudes and practices, which are receiving greater acceptance in society, whereby the family, as known in the past, is becoming less recognisable, or receiving a new definition. In some cases, these situations are being sanctioned in civil law. Many social phenomena have lead to this state of affairs: the large number of extra-marital births; couples co-habiting without marriage; a high divorce rate; the push to extend the institution of marriage to homosexual and lesbian couples, etc.. The impermanence of marriage and family institutions is indeed one of the negative "signs of the times" in some parts of Oceania today.

Youth are filled with energy and idealism. They are the future of society and of the Church and, therefore, deserve every encouragement to fully develop their talents. The majority of youth have a strong yearning for justice and want to work to overcome prejudice, poverty and inequality in the world. They want to participate in creating a better, more just and loving world, in spite of the various dangers to which they are exposed, e.g., drugs, societal pressures, consumerism, etc.. At the same time, the sexual mores of some youth seem to be becoming more lax, especially with the ready availability of contraception and abortion. In many societies in Oceania, pre-marital sex is finding a wider acceptance and is being practiced without any social restraint. Because of the great effect which society has on the young in these important formative years, the Church oftentimes faces a real challenge in reaching youth through pastoral programmes and services.

The family is a basic unit on which all other social institutions depend. The Church recognises that the family is, as it were, "a little church"(40) of worship, prayer and sacramental life through its identification with Christ in His Mystical Body.

The Marriage Bond

37. The teaching of the Church over the last generation has emphasised the grandeur of the marriage vocation. Marriage is described as an interpersonal union of husband and wife, a sharing of all levels of their life. The sacrament of marriage means that two "become one flesh" (Gen 2:24) so that their union reflects and realises the love of Christ as spouse for His Bride, the Church. "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for Her" (Eph 5:25). Bishops and priests have actively preached this message. They have fostered and often required couples to participate in marriage preparation courses. In many places, there are movements, programmes and groups for improving the quality of married life for couples. Catholic social services provide a wide range of counseling and therapy for individuals, couples and families.

Despite the Church's efforts, however, an increasing number of marriages end in failure for the following reasons: early marriage and the immaturity of the couple; unpreparedness for rearing and educating children; emotional crises joined to a lack of support from the community, wrongful intrusion by relatives and friends; stress from financial difficulties and work pressure; unemployment; changing gender roles and permissive social mores, etc..

In the face of the break-up of a marriage, a number of the faithful have had recourse to the Church's marriage tribunals with the result that marriage annulments have become more widely known and discussed in the community. However, not everyone properly understands that annulment is not divorce. Parish priests are frequently faced with various pastoral cases concerning marriage which require the virtue of compassion, yet the need to affirm the Church's teaching on marriage and family life. Responding to persons and couples involved in such situations, after "the heart of Christ", through a patient but loving explanation of the Church's teaching, priests can be instruments of peace and reconciliation, as well as witnesses to others of the sanctity of marriage. In this way, the Church can assist society and offer young people a future worthy of their aspirations. At the same time, the Church can teach the importance of the family and its service to life, for as Pope John Paul II says, "the future of humanity passes by way of the family."(41)



The Priesthood

38. Priestly vocations seem to be sufficient in Papua-New Guinea and the Pacific islands. In more Western societies, however, vocations are declining to the point that in some areas vocations are unable to keep pace with the number of priests who die. Such a situation means that a good number of smaller communities no longer have a resident priest, in spite of a growing population. Some wrongly think that laity will be able to fill the vacuum left by a diminishing clergy. Such attitudes are perhaps an indication that more attention needs to be given to coming to a clearer understanding of the roles and charisms proper to priests and laity in the Church.

Programmes for Vocations, always a delicate and demanding pastoral activity, have become even more arduous, where scandals involving clergy and religious, are much publicised by the media. Such situations not only have consequences on vocations, but also on, e.g., the persons involved, the Church's reputation, the morale of priests, the image of the priest among the faithful, etc.. Where vocations are sufficient in some parts of Oceania, other parts seem to reflect the downward trend of many developed countries. For the above reasons, the Church in the region is faced with finding ways to promote vocations, beginning in families and parishes--where such vocations generally have their first stirrings--through encouragement and support by parents and through the exemplary life of priests.

Proper formation is also a factor in this discussion, addressed by Pope John Paul II and the bishops in the Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis.(42) In some parts of Oceania, preparation in seminaries sometimes does not sufficiently prepare a student to enter into dialogue with the people and the culture which he is expected to evangelise; the problem rests partly with candidates and partly with the quality of education offered. In other cases, pastoral courses and apprenticeship have been introduced as part of seminary programmes, usually with good success. On-going formation is generally sporadic. Seminaries in mission areas often have difficulty engaging sufficiently trained staff. Sending students from these seminaries to do specialised study in other places is sometimes a concern because they find themselves unprepared to confront intellectual problems which they cannot identify in their own culture. The permanent diaconate has been introduced in various diocese to help with liturgy, catechesis, administration and the social ministry of the Church. Among these deacons are a good number of married men.

The Lay Vocation

39. Laity are more and more seeing themselves as an integral part of the Church and are demonstrating enthusiasm for their lay calling. Priests are involving them as collaborators in the administration of parishes on pastoral councils, as financial and legal advisers, as catechists and pastoral agents. For the most part, laity are gaining a new-found confidence in their mission and vocation ad intra for the Church. They are also involved ad extra, in the world, their proper vocation. Perhaps, this central or focal aspect of their vocation might need greater attention in the Church's programme of a new evangelisation in Oceania, especially in emphasising the laity's Christian witness of their own lives and convictions in their secular professions of law, medicine, education, and science; in the world of work, entertainment, and the media; and the intimate world of marriage and the family. Each part of the Church--clergy, those in the consecrated state and laity--is called upon to work together, in mutual support, interest and encouragement, in the programme of evangelisation towards the Third Millennium.

When European missionaries came to preach the faith, but could not speak the local dialect or language or had to pastor an extensive area in which there were many village communities, there grew up a group of ministers of the Gospel who were intermediaries between the missionary and the local people. These catechists, as they were known, became almost an institution in their own right, organising and, in fact, leading the local or village congregation in everything, except in those duties reserved to a priest. Today in certain parts of Oceania, some people are seeking more formal recognition of the role of catechist in the Church.

Another matter receiving attention in many parts of Oceania is the position of women in the Church. This has resulted from a greater awareness of their role in society and their newly assumed social status. The Church in Her own way has sought to promote and improve the role of women by recognising their many contributions to the apostolate and by continuing to find ways of involving them in various services to the Church and in the Church's mission in society. The renewed liturgy affords them functions not previously possible, and they often form part of chaplaincy teams in hospitals, universities, schools, or jails, as well as being part of pastoral teams in parishes. Their professional ability has been invaluable in the Church's social ministry and in teaching, medicine, nursing, law, etc..

Today in the Church in Oceania, there exist few formal structures for dialogue with non-believers or with secular society. However, the recent foundation of Catholic universities in Australia, and forms of tertiary education elsewhere, is an important step in the Church's desire to dialogue with contemporary culture. A group worthy of special mention is the body of lay teachers in Catholic schools, primary and secondary. They work alongside religious teachers, succeeding them as the number of religious in schools diminish. In some cases, their work is the most extensive lay ministry in the Church. These teachers exercise a positive influence on others, not simply from their role as teacher, but through the Christian example of their lives. However, some problems can occur when a teacher's private life bears a contrary witness, or when people place undue expectations on them as the educated class, or when these teachers rather uncritically assimulate intellectual fashions from other countries, etc..

Politics is an area which needs the attention of the Church's Pastors.(43) Even though the Church has a spiritual and not a political mission, it has a role in the political life and the decision- making processes of civil society because the Gospel is destined for humanity, which makes up society. The Church's Pastors, therefore, have the duty to proclaim the Gospel message and its truth not only to society-at-large, but to politicians, parliaments and national leaders. It is precisely at this level that the most intense conflict between a "culture of life" and a "culture of death" takes place, as Pope John Paul II explained in his Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae.(44) The courageous witness of Church leaders to faith-values is a tremendous contribution towards keeping the political process free of corruption, prejudice and injustice. On the contrary, the sometimes open disagreements between Church leaders on political and social issues can often lead to disunity within the Church community as well as among politicians and the nation.

Men and Women Religious and Consecrated Persons

40. Certain signs today indicate that the secular world is often a wasteland, a spiritual vacuum. Even where Christians are present, the world seems to be waiting and longing for a more evident sharing in the life which God offers in His Spirit. This desire finds expression in a search for spirituality, which is sometimes not given enough emphasis. With the rich experience of Her history, the wealth of doctrine, and the examples and message of Her saints and mystics, the Church, Who is holy, is challenged to formulate and spread a spirituality truly appropriate for these times in Oceania and for its many cultures. In many cases, people are asking themselves today what is the way, i.e., "the rule of life," appropriate to bishops, priests, women and men religious, consecrated persons, laity in family or single life, in their activity in the Church and in the world.

To make the Christian message come alive for Christians in their daily life is probably the greatest challenge facing the Church on the verge of the Third Millennium. Sometimes needed in the celebration of the sacraments is a "sense of God", i.e., a witness to the fact that He is intimately encountered in the silence of contemplative prayer. Sometimes, a loss of the sense of the sacred is detected at Mass, as likewise, a loss of the sense of sin in the infrequent practice of individual sacramental confession.

In the consecrated life the above desire for spirituality is fulfilled to a high degree and receives a powerful witness. Contemplative orders, some of which are present in Oceania, attest in a special way to God's transcendence and witness to the deep intimacy of communion between the person and God. In many instances, active congregations in light of the aggiornamento called for by the Second Vatican Council have acquired new and more convincing ways to witness to their charism through prayer, community life and apostolic activity. Though religious vocations in some areas of Oceania are few, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands are experiencing the contrary. Formulating a programme of formation for new religious, which will equip them for a life-long service, is a great challenge. In the more traditional cultures of Oceania, the fundamental demands of the Gospel are a constant challenge to the value system of the day: chastity challenges the emphasis on fecundity; poverty, the desire to own and share wealth as a sign of prestige; and obedience the desire for positions of power and influence. Consecrated life communicates a dedication to Kingdom values, and thus a special and specific gift to the Church.

Despite these positive influences, consecrated life in some areas of Oceania is undergoing difficulties, e.g.: questioning of the vow of chastity; lack of proper appreciation of the charism of religious life by local clergy and laity; certain strains between local bishops and some religious by reason of the abandonment of traditional apostolates for experimental ones or radical changes in styles of living; sometimes lack of appeal of the this unique vocation by youth; activity at the expense of prayer and contemplation; etc.

The proper way of living an apostolic commitment to the consecrated life is often not easily achieved today. In many places in Oceania, difficulties are requiring consecrated persons not simply to re-discover the charism of the founder, but to seek to express it in new fields of life and ministry.(45) The fact that religious have largely disappeared from Catholic institutions in some countries means that these institutions, especially schools and hospitals, are without the unique witness to the coming of the Kingdom provided by these persons. At the same time, some religious have shown a great sense of spiritual discernment in a secular society by entering new apostolates, e.g., care of AIDS patients, apostolate to society's homeless and troubled youth, and a choice to go to the very poorest in society.




Some Structures Fostering Communion

41. In His priestly prayer, Christ beseeched His Father that humanity might share the life of the Trinity through what He was undertaking in the Paschal Mystery of His Passion, Death and Resurrection. "Even as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (Jn 17: 21). His great prayer was "...that they may be one even as we are one" (Jn 17: 22). His new commandment to love one another after His example is the norm and standard of life in the Christian community.

In many places, basic Christian communities have been a good tool for bringing people together in face to face groups, where the faith can be deepened and people can assume greater responsibility for their future as a Christian community. Flourishing in more traditional, community-centred cultures, these communities are showing encouraging signs of growth. At times, they have even been effective in organising para-liturgical services and community life, when a priest was not available.

Parishes remain the ordinary point of contact of the faithful with the Church. In this sense, the priest in the parish has a crucial role in witnessing to the Church. Sometimes, he is the only point of reference for people. Considering the variety of situations in each parish in the various diocese of Oceania, the parish ministry today requires the priest's openness in cooperation with various groups, especially the laity, in the preparation of liturgy, social ministry and action in society. The anonymity of large congregations in big cities pose particular challenges in building a sense of community. Small groups, e.g., prayer groups, Scripture study groups, Justice and Peace groups, are helpful. Priests are often faced with the challenge of discerning which movements are suitable for their parish, which will help the faithful grow in sanctity and which will help them be better members of the diocesan and worldwide Church community. The center of the parish is the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the soul and summit of communion, which gives purpose and power to the community and all its activities. The parish community, in the spirit of evangelisation, gives attention to Catholic and non-Catholic, believer and non-believer, within its boundaries.

A Diocese has all the resources necessary to make it a particular Church in the great communion of the universal Church. Through the Sacraments and the ministry person of the bishop, it has the power to generate its own life so as to provide for all the essential needs of the faithful, e.g., the sacramental life, evangelisation, catechesis, apostolic works, etc. The cathedral is the "Mother Church" for the diocese where the Ordinary, in his role as Principal Celebrant of the Eucharistic Liturgy,(46) is the source of unity for the diocesan community and where the bishop's chair is located, the symbol of his teaching office. In many parts of Oceania, dioceses today have specialised groups of laity in such areas as justice and peace, bio-ethics, etc. As a norm, most dioceses have at least one house of contemplative religious within its boundaries. Some dioceses share their resources by setting up offices or work groups at regional, state or national level. This oftentimes makes dialogue with civil authorities and governments more effective. As mentioned earlier, the bishops in the region collaborate on the national and international level in the various Bishops' Conferences.

The Bishops and Communion

42. The Pastors of the Church, the college of bishops in union with the successor of Peter, are called to lead, teach and sanctify the faithful entrusted to them. It is their function to foster, coordinate and discern priestly, religious and lay vocations in the Church. They are the principle agents of, and the ones principally responsible for, renewal in the Church as well as the evangelisation in the modern world. For this reason., their decisions have great consequences not only in their own diocese, but oftentimes outside of it. To be effective leaders they need the prayers, cooperation and support of the local Christian community. Disunity in the Church community, e.g., public dissent from official teaching, quarrelling by various Church individuals and groups, etc., weakens the Church's witness to Christ and His Gospel. Sometimes this lack of unity is fostered by the forming of groups opposed to each other as a result of differing opinions about renewal in the Church. In faithfulness to Her mission, the Church seeks to teach eternal truths in a contemporary way so as to meet the needs and sensitivities of the times. In this work towards greater communion within the Church, the bishops exercise their vocation as the primary ministers of communion.


Mary, Queen of Peace

43. When the missionaries came to Oceania, they brought a faith which taught a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary. For these missionaries, the mother of Jesus was a continuous help in their efforts of evangelisation and a refuge in their pains and difficulties. Her statue had a prominent place in many chapels and churches. In many parts of Oceania, she was venerated as the Help of Christians. In response to the missionaries preaching, devotion to Mary found a heartfelt and joyful resonance in the Catholic community. The missionaries and their converts remembered how Mary had always guided and helped them because of her unique relationship to Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life. More recently the Bishops of Oceania have named her the patroness of the Pacific region under the title of Queen of Peace.

The Gospel of Luke tells us that Mary, immediately after she welcomed the Word of God in her heart and her womb, set off and walked through the mountains to visit her cousin Elizabeth. When the two women met, Mary, inspired by her cousin's greeting, proclaimed the Good News of God's coming, announced in her pregnancy. In joyful song, she told the tremendous truth of a new world, a world in which God would reign powerfully, a world of justice and mercy. The new life in her, the life of Jesus that she was nurturing, was to be born as the promised beginning of this new world. Mary, in exercising a crucial role in the Incarnation, in following Jesus' prophetic journeys, and in standing in suffering under His cross, became the mother of all the living. In her, the New Eve, what had been initially promised in the Book of Genesis is fulfilled (cf. Gen 3:15).

Mary, Woman of Faith

44. Mary is able to be such a mother as a result of her faith. As a woman of faith, she accompanies the Church's members as they walk and live in faith. Faith filled her heart when she welcomed Jesus. Her faith supported Him in His public ministry, when He proclaimed the Good News and brought God's healing. Mary's faith sustained her under the cross. Finally, her faith inspired her to pray with the assembled disciples, who were waiting and hoping for the coming of the Spirit. In this humble and hidden way she supported the beginning of the Church.

May Mary, the Help of Christians, help the universal Church to reflect on the present and the future of the Catholic faith community in Oceania. She is the Star of the Sea and the guiding light in walking the way of Jesus. She is an encouraging example in telling the truth of Jesus. She is a nurturing mother in living the life of Jesus. Confident of her loving care, the Church's members seek to persevere in adhering to Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for the Church in Oceania.



Chapter I

1. Describe the situation in your Church in light of Her missionary consciousness and activity. What can be done to make people more aware of their responsibility to "walk the way of mission", i.e., bearing witness to Christ in word and action, not simply in their local community, but also beyond it? What can be done in Oceania, to ensure that the Gospel is proclaimed to groups and areas where it has not yet been heard, or needs to be heard anew?

Chapter II

2. In your part of Oceania, how does the Church reflect, take into account and respond to the variety of cultures in society? Describe ways in which the Church is enriched by this variety and diversity of cultures, and how these cultures figure in Her work of pastoral planning? Describe the manner in which local cultures are being evangelised and how the Gospel is inviting people to conversion. What is the special contribution of Christians to a greater dialogue among these cultures?

3. To what extent is the inculturation of the Gospel taking place in your Church? What are its positive and negative aspects? In what ways can the inculturation of faith be promoted? How is the Church in Oceania contributing to the cultures of Her peoples, especially in such areas as art, architecture, science, literature, art, cinema, etc.? How do Catholic schools and universities contribute in relation to the process?

4. Describe the situation of ethnic minorities in your part of Oceania concerning human rights, education, economic development, health care, housing, etc. What pastoral measures is the Church taking to address these people's spiritual needs?

5. How is the phenomenon of migration affecting your part of Oceania? How is the Church responding to the pastoral needs of the people involved? Describe the positive and negative effects, if any, of the increase in tourism and what the Church is doing with this relatively new situation in Oceania. What can the Church do in the future?

6. How is the Church responding to opportunities and challenges presented by the rise in urbanisation in your part of Oceania? Describe how people's needs, especially those of the young, are being met by the Church. In what ways can the Church address issues of injustice and the rise in immoral conduct in urban areas? How can Christian communities bear more effective witness in big cities in the future?


Chapter I

7. In a programme of new evangelisation, how is the Church "telling the Truth of Jesus Christ" within the Church community through encouraging and providing opportunity for spiritual renewal of Her members, e.g., sacramental life, formation of the clergy, religious, consecrated persons and laity, etc.? How can the Church proclaim the Gospel in society in light of particular cultural circumstances, e.g., pluralism, widespread cultural and moral relativism, drift from the faith, growing agnosticism, atheism, etc.? What needs to be done in the future to bring people to Christ and to the Catholic faith?

8. In your local Church, what is the present state of catechetics? What still needs to done to make catechesis more effective for the various sectors of the Christian community, e.g., children, youth, adults, Catholic education, Catholics in public educational institutions, etc.? How can the mass media be better utilised as a tool in catechesis?

Chapter II

9. Evaluate the progress, programmes and effects of the ecumenical movement in your part of Oceania? What is the Church doing in Her relations with other religions, e.g., Jews, Muslims, Hindus, traditional religions? What are the results? What can the Church do in the future to bring about greater cooperation in these relations for mutual benefit as well as for the benefit of society?

Chapter III

10. Describe the situation created by the presence of any sects and new religious movements in your Church. In your opinion, what is the cause of their attraction, e.g., needs of individuals, weakness of faith in some Christians, factors in families, groups and society in general, etc.? How can the Church better respond to the challenges posed by these sects and religious movements?

Chapter IV

11. How can the Church's social teaching be better made known, particularly in light of justice and peace issues? Describe and evaluate the Church's application of these teachings to social, political, economic and cultural issues ? What is the role of the Church in dealing with such issues on the international level? What specific challenges peculiar to Oceania exist in this area, e.g., globalisation and development, indigenous peoples, pursuit of peaceful relations among people(s), ecology, etc.? How can the Church better contribute in areas of justice and peace?


Chapter I

12. From the perspective of Oceania and your local Church, evaluate the process of renewal, begun in Vatican Council II and intended to lead people to "live the Life of Jesus Christ", both on the level of the individual and as a Church community, e.g., sacramental life, living the mystery of Church communion, etc.? How was the Second Vatican Council received in Oceania? How would you assess the changes it brought about? What still needs to be done?

Chapter II

13. As stewards of the gift of life, with its origin and destiny in God, how are the members of your Church community--individually and collectively--raising the consciousness of others regarding the sacredness and dignity of every human life? What can the Church do in those areas of society in Oceania which are particularly touched by this issue, e.g., abortion, contraceptive mentality, attitudes towards sexuality, health care, hospitals, euthanasia, etc.? How is the Church responding to the new bio-technologies? What future course of pastoral action should the Church follow in the above areas?

Chapter III

14. In Church and society, describe the situation of marriage and the family in your part of Oceania? How can the Church contribute to strengthening the institution of marriage, and thereby ensure for the family a stable and healthy environment which welcomes human life, nurtures children, guides youth, in short, which provides fulfilment and attention to all the personal needs of those in the family?

Chapter IV

15. Describe any particular vocations, charisms or issues which are presently receiving attention in your Church community, specifically in light of the focus of "living the life of Christ" in a new evangelisation of Oceania towards the Third Millennium, e.g., priesthood, priestly vocations, seminaries, laity, the role of catechists, women in the Church, political life, the consecrated life, Catholic education and catholic schools, social questions, etc.

Chapter V

16. How is the Church in your area responding, through Her members and structures, to Her vocation to be a Builder of Communion within the Church community?. How is She fulfilling Her mission to be the sacrament of unity in the world?. What more can the Church do in the future to accomplish this task?

Other Themes

17. Evaluate the situation of the Church in Oceania in relation to the Universal Church? What specific contribution can the Church in Oceania make to the Universal Church? How can the Church in Oceania benefit from the gift of communion with the worldwide Church?

18. In light of the topic of the Special Assembly, please add any remarks or suggestions on matters which, in your opinion, have not been sufficiently treated in the Lineamenta, or not included in the above series of questions.




Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania

Oceania and its peoples

A Synod for Oceania

Jesus Christ : the Way, the Truth and the Life

Part One

Walking the way of Jesus Christ

Introduction : Walking the Way of Mission

Chapter I : The Way of Christianity to Oceania

Early Contact and First Missionary Efforts

Initiatives of the Holy See

Work of Missionary Congregations and Institutes

Oceanians as Missionaries

Chapter II : The Way to Many Cultures


Cultural Variety


Ethnic Minorities and Indigenous Peoples

Migration and Tourism

Urbanisation and Industrialization

Part Two

Telling the Truth of Jesus Christ

Introduction : Christ the Truth

Chapter I : Evangelisation

Proclaiming the Gospel

Today's Challenges

Kerygma : the Initial Proclamation of the Gospel

Vatican Council II

Catechesis : Growing in the Faith

Chapter II : Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue


Interreligious Dialogue

Chapter III : Sects


Particular Points

Chapter IV : Justice and Peace

Working towards Establishing the Kingdom of God

Responsibility for Creation

Part Three

Living the Life of Jesus Christ

Introduction : New Life in Christ

Chapter I : Sacraments

Renewal in Vatican Council II

Liturgical Reform

Life through the Sacraments

Chapter II : Human Life and Health

God's Gift of Life

Cultural Attitudes towards Life

Moral Issues

The Church's Witness to Life

Chapter III : Marriage and Family

Cultural Effects

The Family

The Marriage Bond

Chapter IV : Particular Vocations and Charisms

The Priesthood

The Lay Vocation

Men and Women Religious and Consecrated Persons

Chapter V : Community Building and the Ministry of Communion

Some Structures Fostering Communion

The Bishops and Communion


Mary, Queen of Peace

Mary, Woman of Faith




(1) See e.g. "Blessed are the Peacemakers"(1991) A Statement of the Bishops of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, in: Statements of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands 1969-1992, Hohola, 1993, pp.73-74. See also "Social Unrest in PNG Today", Ibid. , pp.83-84.

(2) With the exception of Irian Jaya that borders on Papua New Guinea but is part of Indonesia, and the Hawaii Islands which are part of the U.S.A.

(3) For the allocutions of Paul VI during his visit of 1970, see AAS 63 (1971) 46-73. For the allocutions of John Paul II during his visits of 1984, see AAS 76 (1984) 1003-1019; for those during his visits of 1986, see AAS 79 (1987) 929-983. For his visits of 1995, see AAS (forthcoming).

(4) Cf. PAUL VI, Allocution to the Youth of Australia (2.XII.1970): AAS 63 (1971) 63.

(5) PAUL VI, Allocution to the Youth of Australia (2.XII.1970): AAS 63 (1971) 72. Cf. also JOHN PAUL II, Allocution to the CEPAC Bishops in Suva (21.XI.1986): AAS 79 (1987) 929-934: "The Church is by nature missionary [...] The Church in Oceania eloquently shows the fruit of this evangelizing spirit. Evangelisation is the task of everyone in the Church [...]".

(6) PAUL VI, Allocution to the Bishops of Oceania in Sydney (1.XII.1970): AAS 63 (1971) 56.

(7) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, 17.

(8) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Allocution to the Aboriginal People in Alice Springs, Australia (29.XI.1986): AAS 79 (1987) 977.

(9) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 54: AAS 83 (1991) 301.

(10) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Allocution to the Aboriginal People in Alice Springs, Australia (29.XI.1986): AAS 79 (1987) 973-979.

(11) Ibid.: AAS 79 (1987) 976.

(12) JOHN PAUL II, Allocution to the New Zealand Bishops ; 5 : L'Osservatore Romano : Weekly Edition in English, 1 December 1986, p. 8.

(13) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes, 22.

(14) PAUL VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 3 and note 6: AAS 68 (1976) 6.

(15) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Priestly Formation Optatum totius, 16.

(16) PAUL VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 13: AAS 68 (1976) 12.

(17) PAUL VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 24: AAS 68 (1976) 21.

(18) Ibid., 2: AAS 68 (1976) 6.

(19) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, 24: AAS 87 (1995) 427.

(20) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis splendor, 100:AAS 85 (1993) 1211-1212.

(21) ST. JEROME, Commentarium in Isaias, Prol.: PL 24, 17.

(22) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei verbum, 21.

(23) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis redintegratio, Introduction.

(24) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint: AAS 87 (1995) 921-982.

(25) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, 38: AAS 87 (1995) 31.


(27) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes, 42.

(28) Ibid., 40.

(29) Ibid., 42.

(30) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Sollecitudo rei socialis, 46 AAS 80 (1988) 579.

(31) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, 1.

(32) Cf. Ibid., Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium, 7,9.

(33) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, 65: AAS 87 (1995) 475.

(34) Cf. Ibid., 90: AAS 87 (1995) 503-504.

(35) Ibid., 27: AAS 87 (1995) 432.

(36) Ibid., 68: AAS 87 (1995) 480.

(37) Ibid., 70: AAS 87 (1995) 483.

(38) Cf. Ibid., 73: AAS 87 (1995) 486-487.

(39) Ibid., 88: AAS 87 (1995) 501.

(40) PAUL VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 71: AAS 68 (1976) 60.

(41) JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, 86: AAS 74 (1982) 188.

(42) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis, 42ff.: AAS 84 (1992) 729-731.

(43) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes, 76; JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, 5, 82: AAS 87 (1995) 406; 494.

(44) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, 28: AAS 87 (1995) 432.

(45) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consacrata, 96ff.: AAS 88 (1996) 471-476.

(46) Cf. SAINT IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, Epistula ad Philadelphenses, III-IV, in F. FUNK, Patres Apostolici, Tubingae 1901, vol. I, pp. 266-267.