At the conclusion of the assembly of the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO), His Excellency Ryan P. Jimenez of Chalan Kanoa was appointed as the new Chairperson of the Communications Commission of CEPAC.
Bishop Ryan was among the 80 bishops who participated in the quadrennial assembly of all bishops of Oceania. The meeting was held at Port Morseby, Papua New Guinea, from April 11 – 18, 2018. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of the Vatican State was the main speaker for the assembly.
In one of the sessions, Bishop Ryan was officially appointed to head the Communications Commission of CEPAC, the episcopal conference where Saipan belongs. He will be working with two other bishops and among their first task is to create and develop a website for the bishop’s conference.
The themes of the meeting of the bishops of Oceania are summarized in its title: “Care of our Common Home of Oceania: A sea of possibilities”. The main focus was on the encyclical Laudato si’, and the consequences of climate change on the countries such as Oceania and on the possible response of the Churches. The Churches feel challenged by issues such as the care of the oceanic ecosystem and the protection of human rights threatened by intensive exploitation.
Oceania covers one third of the Earth’s surface, yet it only has 38.7 million inhabitants, 26% of whom are Catholics (10 million). Indigenous peoples are usually divided into three main ethnic groups: Melanesians, Polynesians and Micronesians, scattered over the three largest islands (Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea) and over the several thousand smaller islands (10-25 thousand depending on the cataloguing criteria used), separated by huge stretches of water.
In the diverse and delicate social and cultural context of Oceania, the Catholic Church has been present since a relatively recent time. Pacific evangelization has been characterized by obstacles imposed by immense geographical distances, cultural differences of local people and countless languages. Until the mid-seventeenth century, there can be no talk of a systematic evangelization of the population and only in 1968 did the bishops of Oceania meet in the Pacific Episcopal Conference. Since 1992, the Federation of Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania has coordinated – with a necessary approach of “communion of local communities”, each with its own identity – the four existing Episcopal Conferences (Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, Pacific Islands).