Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Caritas agencies in the Pacific strengthen themselves to care for the human family and care for the Earth, our common home.

The world-wide Caritas network is dedicated to caring for the neediest among the human family and caring for the Earth, our common home. From September 10-13 the Oceania members of the network gathered in Cairns, Australia, with other members of the Caritas family to renew our energies in that work. Present also were representatives from countries not yet members of the Caritas network, reflecting the forum theme of ‘Our Family, Our Future’ and strengthening ties with Francophone and Anglophone peers.

The forum identified the strengths and achievements of the Oceania agencies and the priorities for collective action over the next 2 years. We were helped in our global vision by a video presentation from Michel Roy, Secretary-General of Caritas International (CI) and updates from delegates on various CI working groups.

Common topics of conversation were the questions around preparedness for humanitarian emergencies, especially those caused by climate change, migration being caused by actual climate change and rising sea levels, mining and seabed mining in the region and questions of human rights.
We welcomed the recent statement of the Executive Committee of the Federation of Bishops Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO) expressing concern about the exploitation of our seas and situation of the people of West Papua. We are encouraged that next year’s FCBCO assembly theme will be: Care for our Common Home of Oceania: a sea of possibilities.

Forum delegates were welcomed by Bishop James Foley of Cairns and accompanied in our reflection by Archbishop Mark Coleridge (Brisbane), vice-president of the Australian Bishops Conference, Archbishop Peter Loy Chong (Suva, Fiji), and Bishops Peter Brown (American Samoa) and Jozef Roszynski (Wewak, PNG).

Our meeting began by listening to the experiences of members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. As well as sharing stories of discrimination against their peoples since European settlement they also spoke of their deep relationships with land, animals, and ancestors, and of their hope for the future. We see that if we are to truly care for our common home we need to learn from the wisdom of the indigenous peoples of our world.

In the light of this encounter we looked again at what it is to be truly ‘developed’ as people and as communities. We studied Catholic Social Teaching on this question, from Paul VI’s ‘Populorum Progressio’ to Pope Francis’ proposal of an integral ecology in ‘Laudato Si’.

These considerations led the Caritas network in Oceania to focus on 3 main areas in the next 2 years: Climate change and environmental justice, indigenous perspectives on Catholic Social Teaching and becoming a more effective and broader organization.

Caritas Australia, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, Caritas Papua New Guinea, Caritas Samoa, Caritas Tonga.

Contact: Mons. G. Burns, President Caritas Oceania
. +64-4-496-1737; g.burns@wn.catholic.org.nz