The New Evangelization - Oceania


 

INSTRUMENTUM LABORIS
Synod for Oceania


INDEX

PREFACE
INTRODUCTION

PART I - WALKING THE WAY OF JESUS CHRIST
Chapter I - Missionary Apostolate
Chapter II - The Gospel and Many Cultures
 
Chapter III - People on the Move

PART II - TELLING THE TRUTH OF JESUS CHRIST
Chapter I - Evangelisation
Chapter II - Proclamation and Catechesis
Chapter III - Catholic Education
 
Chapter IV - Ecumenism
Chapter V - Inter-religious Dialogue

Chapter VI - Justice and Peace

PART III - LIVING THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST
Chapter I - Sacraments
Chapter II - Human Life and Health
 
Chapter III - Marriage and Family  
Chapter IV - Vocations and Charisms
Chapter V - The Ministry of Communion

CONCLUSION


JESUS CHRIST AND THE PEOPLES OF OCEANIA:

WALKING HIS WAY, TELLING HIS TRUTH AND

LIVING HIS LIFE


PREFACE

 

The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania, convoked in the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente (n. 38), appears in a series of continental synodal assemblies called in light of the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. The first such assembly was held for the African continent in 1994. The Special Assembly for America concluded in December, 1997 and that for Asia in the Spring of 1998. The remaining Special Assembly for Europe is to be celebrated in the latter part of 1999, at the close of the Second Millennium.

The Special Assembly for Oceania is to take place 22 November - 12 December 1998, culminating a period of preparation characterised by some significant moments, i.e., the consultation for arriving at a synod topic, followed by the Holy Father's approval of its formulation and the publication of the Lineamenta with its series of questions, sent to the interested parties, including all the active bishops in Oceania (25 May 1997). The publication of the present "working document" or Instrumentum laboris, taking into account the responses to the initial document, constitutes the final phase in the preparatory process for the synod.

From all accounts, the announcement of the celebration of the Special Assembly for Oceania generated great interest among the particular Churches of the region as well as in the Universal Church. This is seen in the many responses and observations to the Lineamenta which arrived at the General Secretariat. Many particular Churches took full advantage of the preparatory period and the Lineamenta document to devote time and prayer to a common reflection on various aspects of the synod topic, thereby ensuring the rich content of the Instrumentum laboris.

During the Third Meeting of the Pre-Synodal Council, held in Rome, 10 - 12 March 1998, the Pre-Synodal Council, in possession of all the material submitted to the General Secretariat from the preparatory stage, proceeded, with the help of experts from Oceania, to propose a final draft of this working document. At this meeting, the members studied the initial draft text, which was composed on the basis of the responses and structured according to the main topics suggested in the questions of the Lineamenta. Finally, the observations of the members of the Pre-Synodal Council at this meeting were incorporated into the various parts of the final text, which was submitted to the Holy Father for his approval.

In the work of arriving at a text which reflected the contents of the responses and observations, three aspects were given consideration, all of which are found in some form in the definitive text: 1) shared points of view 2) contrasting aspects and 3) possible oversights in the responses. Moreover, it is worthwhile to state that the document contains not only the above points but also those subjects which, according to the responses, should receive further examination and development. In these cases, even though they may not be given an extensive treatment in the present text, they are mentioned so as to become part of the agenda for treatment in synodal discussion.

The Instrumentum laboris, presented in the two official languages of the Special Assembly (English and French), is structured according to the logical progression of ideas in the synod topic: "Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania, Walking His Way, Telling His Truth and Living His Life".

Following this plan, the working document is composed of an Introduction and three major sections whose headings are taken from the active elements in the topic. These three sections are further divided into chapters treating related subjects. The document ends with a brief conclusion .

The Introduction, referring to the special assembly as an important and timely event for the Church as well as for the region of Oceania, gives various descriptive elements of the Church in the region from both the present and past.

Part I, entitled Walking the Way of Jesus Christ, has three separate chapters, each dealing with an aspect of evangelisation in the region: missionary consciousness and activity, the Gospel and the many cultures in Oceania and the various phenomena of colonisation, migration and tourism.

Part II, Telling the Truth of Jesus Christ, has six chapters of varying length which treat the content of evangelisation, the means and ways in which the Church in Oceania is pursuing her task in this field, and a variety of possible pastoral approaches in the future.

Part III, Living the Life of Jesus Christ, including five chapters, discusses the concept of communion in the Church and its implications in Church and society, for the individual and the community. This section also considers the variety of persons who are called to become active participants in communion, and looks at the environments where communion is to be nourished and developed.

The document's Conclusion is a dedication and prayer to the Virgin Mary as Queen of Peace and Help of Christians.

The information contained in the Instrumentum laboris, resulting from the responses sent to the General Secretariat, is now being returned to the bishops of Oceania who are to participate at the Special Assembly, for their immediate personal preparation, which includes choosing particular points for their intervention during the synod. As it pleases the Holy Father to release this document for publication, the bishops may also wish to use it for the further animation of their particular Churches and the participation of the entire faithful in the synod process.

By its very nature, the Instrumentum laboris is a document of preparation. It should not be seen in any way as anticipating the conclusions of the synodal assembly, although the consensus that emerges with regard to certain points in the answers will no doubt be reflected in the results of the synod.

It is my fervent hope that Our Lady, present with the disciples in the Upper Room, will guide these final proceedings of preparation and be with the members during the deliberations during the synod so that this assembly will bring many to Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14: 6) and lead to a fresh dynamism in the work of evangelising the region of Oceania as the Church moves ever closer to the threshold of the Third Millennium.


Jan Pieter Cardinal Schotte, C.I.C.M.
General Secretary


INTRODUCTION

 

An Important and Timely Event

1. The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania is an important and timely event for the Catholic Church in Oceania, indeed for all peoples of Oceania. Very soon, the whole world–and consequently Oceania –will enter the Third Millennium. Many are looking forward to this important and unique event with the planning of secular activities for the year 2000. The Catholic Church has her own way of looking forward to that year in expectation. In communion with the Church in other continents, the Church in Oceania is preparing to enter the Third Millennium by celebrating the Jubilee of the Year 2000. It will be a significant Jubilee Year, a religious event that will mark not only the completion of a full century, but also the passing from the Second to the Third Millennium. Gratitude for many graces and goods received goes hand in hand with repentance and forgiveness for missed opportunities and painful failures. A spirit of reconciliation and faith will bring hope for the future.

In order to celebrate this great Jubilee in faith and hope, it is important for the Church in Oceania to remember her past with both gratitude and a contrite spirit, to be clearly aware of the present situation, and to widen and clarify her vision of the future. Through her contribution to this historical consciousness of faith the Special Assembly for Oceania promises to be an important event in the life of the Church in Oceania. Thanks originally to the generosity and fervour of countless missionaries, the many peoples of Oceania know Jesus Christ. This first encounter, which saw its fruits in the first converts, was consolidated by the faith of subsequent generations as well as an ongoing missionary endeavour. Christian families and communities have handed on the faith to their children and to succeeding generations. Until recent times many migrants brought the faith with them as they arrived to find a new land and establish a new life. What they treasured they passed on to their descendants down to the present generation. It is in deepening and enriching this encounter of the peoples of Oceania with Jesus Christ that this important Church event–the Special Assembly–finds its focus and purpose. This meeting of the Catholic bishops from this region and beyond, in union with the Bishop of Rome—cum et sub Petro–is for the Church a celebration of communion in Jesus Christ. It intends to help all Christians, indeed all the peoples of Oceania, to envisage their future as united in true faith and well-founded hope.

The Special Assembly is also an opportune event because the peoples of Oceania are experiencing significant changes at this moment in history. Until the Second World War, the Pacific region, largely unknown and un- noticed by the wider world, lived a relatively peaceful existence. However, World War II made the Pacific Ocean and the islands a strategic area where many battles were fought, forever impacting the peaceful existence of many peoples. In the aftermath of the War the situation changed rapidly. Democracy was already a reality in Australia and New Zealand, but the idea gradually became attractive and possible for many island nations as well. The colonies were moving towards independence or greater autonomy. Many peoples felt the imperative to forge closer ties with others, sometimes expressed in terms of inter-dependence. Industrial companies from inside and outside the region were further exploring the natural resources. They were primarily interested in the economic potential for mining, logging and fishing. In time, this development created new realities and challenges for the peoples and their leaders. At present, Oceania is attempting to find its own identity in relation to Europe, Asia and America. It wants an identity that will be respected and honoured by the great economical, political and financial powers of the world. In addition to closer mutual co-operation, the whole region is looking at ways to achieve greater self-sufficiency. Above all, the peoples of Oceania want positive and free relations with other parts of the globe, peaceful relations built upon justice for all and solidarity with the less fortunate.

Present among the peoples of Oceania, the Catholic Church faces not only historical but also geographical challenges. Oceania is comprised of vast areas of water, some great land masses and many smaller islands. It is still a relatively thinly populated area marked by great distances between its peoples. Given its physical distance from many powerful nations, it experiences a sense of isolation. While transport and communication problems affect its relationship to people outside the region, they remain particularly acute for those living within its boundaries. These problems also affect the way the Church can communicate with and care for her many communities and members.

The occasion of the Special Assembly is a powerful occasion for all Catholics and all people of good will in the region to rediscover and apply in new ways Christian and human values. A new awareness of their unique identity as peoples of Oceania and a renewed idea of true Christianity, not to mention a committed effort to bring these insights and faith to bear on life, will contribute to opening a promising future for the population of the region. The present time is a time of opportunity, a kairos of which the Scriptures speak, a time of new chances and new graces. One of the graces hoped for is peace, a peace associated with the region's ocean, the "Pacific". A renewed Christian consciousness together with renewed efforts to establish justice, reconciliation and solidarity will be the foundation of this peace. It builds on the peace in which the indigenous peoples of Oceania have always believed. Though at times they resorted to war and violence to settle conflicts, these people for the most part considered dialogue, reconciliation and consensus as the best ways to resolve differences. Unfortunately, the former reality in some places is still being experienced today. Christians believe that the only lasting and radical peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Peace in its fullness is founded in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. Through His Cross and Resurrection He has become God's peace for all peoples, in Oceania and beyond.

A Young Church in Oceania

2. Many responses to the Lineamenta pointed out that the Catholic Church in Oceania is still a young Church. Initial contact with Christianity took place in the 16th century and the first organised missionary effort a century later. Systematic missionary activity, both Protestant and Catholic, covering the whole region began in the 19th century. This was also the time of the colonisation and consequent settling of Australia, New Zealand and many Pacific Islands. Though some dioceses were established earlier, it was only in the second half of the 20th century that the Catholic Church erected dioceses covering the whole region and local bishops were appointed. In many Pacific countries the Church has not yet reached her full maturity and is still dependent on outside help. Missionaries, whether from outside the country or from the region, are still needed. They are working side by side with local clergy and religious. Material support is still required.

The responses to the Lineamenta underline that as a young Church much hope, energy, enthusiasm and creativity is to be found among many Catholics and within Catholic communities. This is especially true for the Church in Papua-New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. While the same is true in Australia and New Zealand, there are also signs of resignation, fatigue and division as a result of the difficult struggle the Church is facing against prevailing non-Christian ideas. The Catholic community in Oceania shares these conditions with the Church in Western Europe and North America.

Being young also has its problems, since the Catholic Church in most parts of the Pacific is relatively small. Dependence on outside support, limited local resources, and sensitivity to many outside influences, create concerns that are mentioned in many responses. On the other hand, there is a strong desire to confront the many vital issues in a way that respects the culture of a given country or island. The sense of dependence and external pressure, together with the desire for rightful autonomy, call for greater co- operation, interdependence and practical communion between the many local churches in Oceania.

The Catholic bishops in Oceania have expressed their collegial and co- operative communion by establishing four conferences: the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops' Conference, the Conferentia Episcopalis Pacifici (C.E.PAC.), and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Papua-New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Recently, their communion has been further strengthened by co- ordinating these conferences in the Federation of Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Oceania (F.C.B.C.O.). The Federation allows the bishops to respond in a more effective and united way to the present challenges facing the Church in Oceania.

The Special Assembly will widen the collegial dialogue and collaboration within the context of the Universal Church. The bishops of Oceania will meet with bishops of other continents, in communion with the Bishop of Rome. Together they will discuss the important concerns and challenges that the Church faces in this part of the world, which for many is distant and little-known. The synodal assembly is an important opportunity in which the effects of distance and lack of knowledge might be overcome. The Catholic community of Oceania has contributed, and will continue to contribute, in a unique way to the world-wide Church. The discussions and recommendations are not simply limited to issues of local importance but extend to questions which regard the wider Church. The contribution of the Church in Oceania will be seen and experienced in her youthfulness and her honest outspokenness, together with her loyalty to what binds her together as a part of the Universal Church. As a result, the universal Church will be enriched with new insights and an exuberant hope will flow from this Special Assembly.

Following the Theme

3. The theme of the Synod's assembly, chosen by the Holy Father, is:Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth, Living His Life. The theme recalls the invitation of Jesus Christ extended to all the peoples of Oceania: to meet Him and to believe in Him, to find life and salvation in Him, to follow and proclaim Him. In the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to Himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life. (cf. Jn 14: 6). His words invite those who listen to put all their faith and trust in Him. Accepting Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life for oneself is a personal choice and a response to God's profoundly individual call. It is made in the context of the believing community through the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism. Persons welcoming the saving presence of Jesus Christ in their lives do so as new members of the ecclesial community. It is through her members, each marked by an individual call from God and united in the Spirit, that the Church responds to the invitation of God addressed to all peoples through His Son Jesus Christ. She discovers and walks His Way; she receives and tells His Truth; she lives and shares His Life. In this way, the Church is the Sacrament of Salvation for all peoples.

The theme is particularly appropriate for the Church in Oceania at the present time. The future presents many challenges to the peoples of Oceania. They are searching for identity in fidelity to the cultural and Christian heritage. They are involved in the struggle for justice and peace. At this historical and crucial moment, Jesus Christ offers guidance and meaning. The way of Jesus Christ is first of all meant to give sense and direction to the life of His followers. To walk His way faithfully, however, also means to live in such a manner that His way is shown to others, who are still searching. Walking the way of Jesus is also walking and living with a renewed sense of mission. The truth of Jesus Christ so overwhelms and determines our lives that we are propelled to share in His mission. His truth therefore needs to be constantly meditated upon, understood anew and proclaimed not only in the community of believers but also to others. The life of Jesus Christ cannot be lived without a deep respect for all life, which is the gift of a loving and creative God. Living His life to the full implies an authentic spirituality and a genuine morality that encompasses the individual, the family and society. His life implies reconciliation, forgiveness and conversion, through which new life springs. In this way, believers will be witnesses of His life to the world (cf. Jn 15: 27). All Christians, through their lives, words and actions are to walk the Way of Jesus Christ with new energy, to receive His Truth in renewed faith, to live His Life with new vigour. Strengthened by the Word and the sacraments celebrated in their communities, Christians go out into the world and witness to the Truth, who is Jesus Christ.

Giving true witness to Jesus and His Gospel cannot be limited to a simple proclamation of words. Actions must necessarily follow which both support and witness to evangelisation. In accordance with the Gospel this activity is inspired by charity and justice, by solidarity with the poor, the marginalised, the oppressed, in short, the less fortunate of this world. All Christians are urged by the love of Jesus to practice mercy, promote justice and to assist the needy. Through their love of Jesus, expressed in the love of one's neighbour, they invite and encourage many others to believe in and follow Him. In this way, all peoples can meet Jesus Christ, walk His Way, tell His Truth and live His Life. Jesus is indeed the Way, the Truth and the Life not only for His followers, but for all the peoples of Oceania, indeed for all the peoples of the world.

Remembering the Church's Past

4. Though young, the Church in Oceania is not without moments to remember in her history which makes her both humble and hope-filled. In the past, some Christians in Oceania have made mistakes and have shared responsibility for political and social injustices. Not only individual Christians but also Church leaders have committed errors, approved un-Christian actions or been passive before injustices. This negative aspect of the past has to be honestly acknowledged and is a reason for humility. At the same time, the Church can remember with gratitude the great men and women–priests, religious, catechists and lay people–who gave themselves fully to living out and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They walked His way, told His truth and lived His life in exemplary ways. Many of them have remained relatively unknown but some have been publicly acknowledged, beatified and canonised.

In 1672, after only 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 proto- martyr of the Marianas. A French Marist priest, St. Peter Chanel, was martyred in 1841 after a brief apostolate on the island of Futuna. He is the first saint and proto-martyr of Oceania. Blessed Giovanni Mazzucconi of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions of Milan (P.I.M.E.) was martyred in 1855 on Woodlark Island in Papua-New Guinea. An outstanding example of apostolic activity and religious life was given by Blessed Mother Mary McKillop, an Australian woman religious who died in 1909. A very devoted catechist, Peter To Rot, was killed on the island of New Britain in Papua- New Guinea during the Second World War. The Japanese occupying forces executed him because he refused to cease teaching and caring for converts.

The life, prayer and work of these exemplary people, their pain and suffering and their violent deaths have left indelible memories in the hearts of the people to whom they were sent and among whom they lived and died. These and many more men and women will be surely remembered during the Special Assembly as beacons of light and courage for the present generation. Their intercession will assist the prayers and thoughts of all who take part.


PART I

WALKING THE WAY OF JESUS CHRIST

 

The Mission of the Lord

5. For all Christ's followers, walking His way implies that they accept their part in the mission which the Lord has entrusted to His Church. The Lord is calling them, each at a particular time and in a certain way, and sends them to work in His vineyard ( cf. Mt 20: 1-16). It is never too late to hear His call and to follow Him. Jesus, the incarnate Word, was sent by the Father into the world to save it and to proclaim and establish God's kingdom. He walked throughout the land to tell the truth of God's mercy to His people. He brought sinners to reconciliation with God. He ministered God's healing power and love to the needy and sick. His followers were called to justice, love and forgiveness. When His earthly walk was drawing to a close, Jesus brought His mission to fulfilment on the cross, dying for sinners. But, in raising Him from the dead the Father made Him fully and forever the Way, the Truth and the Life for all who believe. Already during His earthly ministry, and definitively when He was about to ascend to heaven, Jesus shared His mission with His followers, so that God's Word and grace should reach to the ends of the earth.

The Mission of the Church

6. From the very beginning, the Church has been a missionary community. Born of the Holy Spirit, she gathers believers in a communion of faith and love. She invites more and more people to believe in Jesus Christ and join her communion. She actively proclaims Jesus as the Saviour of all and makes Him known to all. This mission had to reach out to all peoples and all generations.

The Holy Spirit, so powerfully active in Jesus, moved local communities and individual apostles of the early Church to walk the missionary way that Jesus had travelled before them. As followers of the Way, they courageously gave witness and suffered persecution for their faith (cf. Acts 9: 2). Believing in Jesus as the Christ, they proclaimed and explained the Gospel, indicating the way to those who came and listened. They witnessed not only through their words but also through their lives, healing actions, fraternal communion, celebration of the sacraments, and assiduous prayers. The missionary journey encouraged and strengthened Christians to bring the Good News of salvation to others who did not yet believe. Pastoral concern for the community was never separated from a burning zeal for mission.

The Church is historically present as God's holy people, united through her communion of faith in Jesus. Communion is an essential feature of the Church, indeed it is one of her central features. The Holy Spirit that animates her as people of God inspires her unity of faith, hope and love, when she follows the footsteps of Jesus. All her members are called to this holiness of life. Being a communion, the Church is also missionary by her very nature. The Church is a people always called to walk the way of Jesus, a way of mission. Inspired by this ideal, many missionaries have come to Oceania, and many are still coming. They preach the Good News, bring people to reconciliation, justice and peace in Jesus, offer them His grace through the sacraments and pray with them to God in spirit and in truth. At present, the Church, united through the communion of the bishops, is a Church truly at home in Oceania and truly Catholic. She is called now to be truly missionary in her own way. She is to follow her missionary call, reaching out and drawing the peoples of Oceania closer to Jesus Christ.

 

CHAPTER I

MISSIONARY APOSTOLATE

 

Missionary Consciousness

7. The responses to the Lineamenta clearly express that in many parts of Oceania the local Church is conscious of her mission and involved in missionary activity. They understand mission not only as mission abroad, but also as missionary outreach at home. In those cases where the baptised have lost contact with the Church or are not educated in the faith, it is a vital mission to reach out to them. Even when partaking of the Sacrament of the Eucharist is not possible, it is important to welcome these people as members of the community and to respect, love and be of assistance to them, wherever possible.

In some parts of Oceania, the local community calls itself "missionary" because many of its pastors and workers are missionaries from outside the region. They are priests, religious and lay people sent by other dioceses or as members of missionary communities. Their presence not only reminds the local community of its historical origin but also of its dependence on outside help. At the same time, the presence of such missionaries is also a call to awaken the missionary spirit in the community itself, and thereby to encourage a reaching out to others.

At present, there is an extensive exchange of missionaries within Oceania. In some cases, they come from the same places that have received missionaries. As a result of foreign missionaries, the community is in contact with other communities and is enriched by other forms of Christian life. Some of the ways in which missionary awareness and zeal is strengthened are: the witness of missionaries when they return home for short periods or definitively; the experience they bring with them; the ongoing support they receive; and the challenge they provide by their presence. The generosity of more affluent communities that help others in need is an expression of Christian solidarity. A new form of such solidarity is the "twinning" of parishes in various dioceses in which there is a mutual exchange on many levels, whereby every one is enriched.

Though in many parts of Oceania, the Church is still in need of workers from outside, the mission-minded dioceses are also acting generously in favour of the wider world-mission. For a young Church, this active exchange with the universal Church is a sign of hope which reflects maturity and growth. Oceania, being small and distant from other continents, could easily feel a sense of isolation and even inferiority. However, her contribution of missionary personnel to the Church in Asia, Africa and South America strengthens the bonds of love and communion, and offers a genuine witness of selfless generosity, praised and blessed by the Lord.

In many responses, together with missionary priests and religious, special mention is made of catechists and other lay missionaries. Lay missionaries give a valuable period of their active life to service in other parts of the world. They offer their talents and skills to community-building, education, health care, technical assistance, women's programmes and people in need. Many of them do not just promote integral human development but also witness to their Christian faith. In this way, they contribute, at least implicitly, to the growth and strength of the Christian communities where they live and work.

A number of responses underline what is an important aspect of the Church, namely, when she listens to the call for missionary outreach. The Gospel is a call to conversion (cf. Mt 1: 14-15), first of all a call addressed to the Church herself, to all her members and communities. It is a call away from being exclusively inward-looking and preoccupied with her own needs, towards becoming outward-looking and responding to the needs of others. It is in fact a radical call to holiness, to an ongoing change of heart, to a more evangelical lifestyle and to the realisation of greater justice and love within the Christian community itself. It is a call to reconciliation, to renewal and reform of life in Jesus Christ and to greater fidelity to His Spirit.

As some of the responses reveal, some local communities have a tendency to be preoccupied overly with themselves, especially when they perceive themselves as small and weak. The concern to maintain themselves is often stronger than the call to mission. Care for those Christians who remain faithful tends to prevail over a concern for those on the edge or who have left the Church. The Church-going community itself can oftentimes lack an active interest in those who no longer practice the faith and, in this way, may tend to become purely cultural Christians.

The two elements–internal renewal and mission to others–are essential and complementary elements of the believing Church. Reaching out to others contributes to growth in holiness and to deeper union with God, who is Love and who loves the world so much that He gave His beloved Son. Inward- looking communities must overcome their inertia and reach out so that they can walk the way of Jesus Christ. Deeper conversion is both important and indispensable if missionary outreach is to be more than the simple promotion of human development or social action for justice and peace. Missionary outreach that is clearly evangelisation has to come from communities and from individuals in whom Jesus Christ is fully alive through His Spirit. A Christian community must examine itself regularly in light of the Gospel and the Church's Tradition. Many responses express the following as a concern of the Church in Oceania: to understand better the call of Jesus Christ and to respond more clearly to His call in the world of today.

People with a Mission

8. The call to mission, both at home and in the wider ecclesial context, is directed to the whole Christian community. The call is directed in a particular way to bishops, priests, deacons, other ministers and to religious men and women. All of them need to be alert and respond actively to the missionary call. Mission at home and mission abroad are activities in which many of these men and women are generously involved. Seizing the opportunities at hand, they are prepared to respond and be trained for their task. They are conscious of the needs of the people around them, they understand the search for meaning and the desire for healing and love. Their radical evangelical lifestyle frequently makes them more aware of the needy in human society, those who are abandoned, the downtrodden and the misguided.

In many responses the call to mission is especially related to lay Christians. The responses not only refer to lay missionaries who leave their countries, but also to Christians who remain in their country to live and work. They are called to give witness to their faith in Jesus Christ in their families and in the exercise of their professions. Professional associations inspired by the Christian faith and its values offer them mutual help. Voluntary services and other activities contribute to the mission of the Church. Encouraged and trained by pastors and religious, dedicated lay people actively follow their own manner of being missionary. They take greater responsibility in the local community and share in missionary outreach. Lay Christians have their own irreplaceable way of walking the way of Jesus Christ. This is not only their call, it is their privilege. With the encouragement of priests and religious, they assume their proper role in the Church. The lay people's renewed responsibility and their missionary activity is a sign of real hope in the Church in Oceania.

The contribution of the laity is a guarantee that the missionary character extends throughout the whole Church, to all communities and believers. They bring the Good News to others, and act as healing instruments of God's mercy. They help to bring peace in times of conflict, and reconciliation after times of hurtful violence. In this context, quite a few responses refer to the conflict-torn island of Bougainville in the North Solomon Province of Papua-New Guinea. Now that a fragile peace has been restored, lay people are responding to the invitation to work with their pastors for a deeper and stronger inner peace. Together with priests and religious, lay people, especially women, are opening a new future for people who have suffered much, and are providing hope to their legitimate aspirations. Building such a hopeful future is beneficial not only for the island itself but for the whole country.

The responses note, often with gratitude and admiration, the various groups and movements that give time and energy to missionary activity. Though their origins are mostly outside Oceania, these groups and movements have taken root in the dioceses of Oceania and are very much alive. By their new methods and programmes, their unified structure and leadership as well as their fraternity and enthusiasm, they are a living missionary force in the Church. They proclaim with courage and perseverance the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and offer their services to the needy, as a practical source of solidarity with the poor. In communion with the local community and its pastor, they generously reach out to others thereby showing the way to other Christians.

As many responses suggest, the missionary spirit needs to be encouraged in many parishes. This may require adult education and ongoing formation of pastors, ministers and the faithful. Many responses propose the creation and promotion of basic Christian communities, home groups or neighbourhood communities. In such communities, the faith is lived and shared, the Scriptures are read and meditated upon as the basis of common prayer, fraternal solidarity is practised, and the joyful and comforting presence of the Holy Spirit is celebrated and experienced more fervently. The members know each other better, they feel freer to express their faith and are encouraged to contact those who are having difficulties or have left the Church. These communities more easily contribute to greater justice and peace and, at the same time, are places which foster a missionary consciousness, because of their nearness to those persons and places which are targets of an out-reach programme. The promotion of such communities requires a co-operative and respectful relationship between lay leaders and the clergy. In this way, the common good of the Church is not undermined but rather served and enriched, and the society around them experiences a wholesome life-enhancing influence.

Fields of Mission

9. The Church is sent to those who have not heard the Gospel or who need to hear it again. The responses to the Lineamenta mention that there are still in Oceania small groups of people that have not heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. The isolation of these tribal groups is often due to the difficulty of arriving at the hard-to-reach places where they live. Efforts continue to be made to approach and proclaim the gospel to them.

In other parts of Oceania, however, the Gospel has been proclaimed and heard in the past. For the present, the task remains to proclaim the Gospel anew to generations and groups that have not as yet heard or responded to the Word of God. The responses refer to those who have been baptised but do not practice their faith. They have become merely cultural Christians. Many come from Christian families and are well-educated people of good will. They have moved away from Christian prayer and worship, and fail to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the faith. Frequently, their behaviour contradicts Christian moral values. It is imperative for the Church to reach out to them, while taking into account their convictions and the human values they practice. It is equally imperative, however, to present the Good News through word and witness, inviting such people to rejoin the Christian community and to practice again the faith they originally received.

In the parts of Oceania where a Western culture prevails, some insist that almost every sphere of public life needs to hear the voice of the Gospel again. All generations, but especially youth, have the right to know the Gospel message and the teachings of the Church. In this regard, many responses point out the importance of the institutes of Catholic education. Those teaching in Catholic schools and universities as well as Catholics teaching in public or non-Catholic educational institutes are to be encouraged and trained to bring the truth revealed in Jesus Christ to bear on all aspects of contemporary human life. In these institutes, the future leaders of the country–women and men–are trained and formed. They must hear the truth and the values taught by the Church, and should see them in practice. Informal education, often reaching the less privileged, is also a field of mission for the Christian community.

Many responses underline the public field of the mass media or social communication as a critical field of mission. The press, the radio and television, video and film, computer and the Internet are instruments that influence people–Christian and non-Christian alike–in manifold ways. The Church is concerned that local communities and Christian groups educate people to a wise and judicious use of the media. It may be possible to make contact and dialogue with those responsible in this area in order that programmes might be influenced so that they respect Christian life and values.

Missionary activity needs a missionary spirituality. Indeed, missionaries and missionary communities need to feed on prayer, intense communion with God and intimate love of Jesus Christ in the Spirit. Some responses indicate that in recent years various people are showing a growing desire and thirst for spirituality. This desire for a deepening of the spiritual life may signify that a new sense of the sacred is in the process of birth. It is often related to a positive discovery of the traditional religious sense to be found in the indigenous cultures, that are among the oldest in the world and still present in Oceania. This thirst for spirituality is also noticeable among priests, religious and lay people. Drawing on Christian spiritual sources, learning from the great spiritual masters in Christianity, guided by a wise spiritual companion, and living in obedience to the Spirit of God in Jesus Christ, they are growing in holiness. Those who offer guidance to those who search, require a strong spiritual life and humble wisdom, both fruits of the Holy Spirit.

 

CHAPTER II

THE GOSPEL AND MANY CULTURES

 

The Transforming Power of the Gospel

10. Whenever people's lives are touched by the Gospel and the grace of Jesus Christ, they are transformed. This transformation is not limited to individual persons; the more people accept Christianity and live it faithfully, the more their society and culture are transformed. By nature and necessity a person is a member of a particular society with its own culture. The values held by its members, the customs 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 world-view and their religious convictions, all make up their common way of life, their culture.

The Church has a deep respect for every human culture. At the same time, the Gospel makes unique challenges on human culture. Without imposing Christianity, the Church attempts, in preaching the Gospel, to elevate, purify and enrich every human culture throughout its history. Once received into a particular culture, the Gospel is gradually expressed and lived in a new way, which then becomes a means of proclaiming the Gospel more meaningfully and effectively in that culture.

A Variety of Cultures

11. The responses to the Lineamenta demonstrate that Oceania is characterised by many peoples with distinctive cultures. In Melanesia alone one finds hundreds of languages and equally numerous cultures. Sometimes, they have common values that are expressed differently; sometimes a common language has developed to communicate and bridge the differences. The range of cultures in Oceania is extremely wide, extending from the simple mountain village with its subsistence economy, to the highly industrial and technological urban society. Often, people of very different cultures live together in the same local community. In Polynesia and Micronesia, most societies are small and mono-cultural. In Australia and New Zealand, the dominant culture is Western besides being considerably diverse because of immigration. Most national societies are multi-cultural, with more than one national language. Notwithstanding this variety, there is a strong tendency in many countries to develop a national cultural identity. At the same time, there are indications that awareness and respect for the original indigenous peoples and cultures are growing.

In some countries the indigenous people have become a minority group in the national society, like the Aborigines in Australia and the Maoris in New Zealand. Sometimes, the dominant cultural group finds it difficult to value and support the cultural minority. While these cultural and social tensions can sometimes be reflected in the Church, she is making every effort to extend her pastoral care and outreach to all. Efforts are now being made to have greater respect for minority groups and their culture. Respect goes hand in hand with partnership for the human development of all, and in a special way for the underprivileged. Indigenous clergy and religious, even if limited in number, are important in providing a rightful place to these people in a multi-cultural society. Often the cultural minority–whether indigenous or a result of immigration–lives in poorer conditions than others in society. The Church is collaborating with others to defend the rights of the poor and assist them in their needs, e.g. through the services of Caritas and similar programmes. She is also offering them education and encouraging employers to provide them with opportunities for work.

Culture and Gospel

12. The relationship between culture and the Gospel has two sides. On the one hand, a local culture offers positive values and expressions which can enrich the way the Gospel is preached and the Christian faith is lived in a local community. On the other hand, the Gospel challenges the local culture. Change must come in whatever is opposed to the truth as proclaimed by the Gospel and treasured by the Catholic Church, or in whatever is in opposition to the religious and human values.

Many responses refer to the fact that the cultural setting of the peoples of Oceania is changing. There is an increasing interdependence and mix between the various cultures. At the same time, the Church has less influence on newly developing and emerging values and ideas. The responses indicate the following among the many positive values in the indigenous cultures of Oceania: an unquestioned sense of the sacred, a respect for tradition and authority, strong family and community bonds, and a feeling of joy and gratitude for life and the gifts of nature. These values have enriched Christian life and society. Many of these values, however, are threatened by an uncritical acceptance of a more Western lifestyle. In other situations, the indigenous cultures offer strong resistance to a fuller acceptance of Christian faith and morality. In this instance, the responses refer to marriage customs favouring polygamy or the tradition of the "bride price", sorcery and superstitious beliefs in evil spirits, tribal enmity and warfare as well as the felt obligation to take revenge when evil has been done to the person or to his tribe or family. The Christian community needs to exercise patience and an ongoing perseverence in order to bring about conversion and change in these negative cultural realities.

More difficult and more challenging is the reception of Christian faith in indigenous thought-patterns. Attempts have already been made by indigenous theologians and religious thinkers who have reflected and worked on a specific cultural (e.g. Melanesian, Pacific) theology and philosophy. Seeds of authentic God-awareness in traditional religion offer possibilities for a creative interpretation of Christian ideas. Critical dialogue and the collaboration of theologians and thinkers, with respect for and adherence to the magisterium, will enrich Catholic theology without losing any essential element of the Church's Tradition.

The Challenge of Modern Western Culture

13. Even where the main culture is indigenous, the growing influence of modern Western culture in Oceania can be noted in many responses. The Church accepts and promotes the positive values of this culture but struggles with its negative aspects. There are important positive values such as the promotion of the dignity of the person, the right to freedom and happiness, the contribution that all should make to decision-making, and the progress and prosperity of human society. At the same time, many responses point out the negative side of Western culture: individualism, materialism, liberalism and destructive competition. In countries with a dominantly Western culture, these tendencies are seen as obstacles to the missionary outreach of the Christian community.

The positive values underlying modern culture are open to the orientation given by the Gospel. When these values are taken as absolute, however, modern culture becomes secularist. Cultural secularism openly rejects religious values and truths, and it denies to the religious community its rightful influence on human society. It is indifferent to religious ideas and practice and opposed to the Church and her representatives. In a secularist society, the task of evangelisation is very difficult and demands great courage. Secularist tendencies are clearly present in modern Western society. While they must be acknowledged, they offer new challenges and opportunities. The Church is sometimes called to protest and defend her faith and moral principles. The Church must have the freedom and the courage to follow her mission in these circumstances.

A strong feature of modern Western culture is the pluralism of opinions and value systems. Diverse opinions on important life-questions and diverse value systems exist side-by-side in the same society. They seem to be equally valid and acceptable. In this climate, the authority and the tradition of the Church are considered only relatively important and are often openly challenged. Absolute pluralism tends to reject reason as the critical element in decision-making and allows emotional aspects to prevail. Limited pluralism is built on the values of tolerance and respect, values appreciated by the Church. Various responses point to such a pluralism as offering important and difficult challenges to Christian missionary activity.

Many responses also refer to materialism as a strong temptation for the peoples of Oceania. Economic prosperity, technological development and scientific discoveries are to be accepted and promoted. Greed for material goods, however, the rejection of God's providence and grace, and the denial of Christian faith and charity are unacceptable to the Church. The dangers that come with the mass media are also mentioned in certain responses. In Oceania, the influence of the mass media is quite considerable and still growing. Oftentimes, the programmes offered uncritically serve the desire for immediate pleasure or simply for exciting entertainment. Many insists that a wise and judicious use of the media for a well-balanced education is important. The family and the school can offer opportunities for such human formation.

The dialogue between the Gospel and modern Western culture is a critical one, always to be taken up anew. Though many responses are critical of this culture, they also refer to the positive values that are helpful in welcoming and expressing the message of God's salvation. In some parts of Oceania, modern Western culture is an influence from outside rather than part of the local culture. It is feared that modern culture will undermine important traditional values in the family and the community, the respect for leadership, and even national unity. In our present world, with the mass media and the freedom of press and broadcasting, such cultural conflicts are unavoidable. The Church is aware of the difficult but necessary task–particularly for the bishops–to give moral guidance and to see that important values in family and society are not forgotten or eliminated.

Some responses refer to a genuine harmony between the various cultures in a given society. The dialogue between them is marked by respect and mutual enrichment. On the contrary, others point out that there are underlying and often public tensions in a struggle for dominance that results in a lack of mutual appreciation. In the dialogue between Gospel and culture and in the dialogue between the cultures themselves, the Church has a difficult but crucial role to play. She herself is constantly called to a greater fidelity to the Gospel that she has received in faith. In her teaching she must try to guide not only believers but others so that all might discover the way of truth, justice and charity in the many changes and struggles that the cultures in Oceania are experiencing.

Inculturation

14. Referring to the question of inculturation, many responses describe the various ways and forms in which the indigenous cultures have enriched the liturgy and devotional practices of the Church in Oceania. Faithful to Vatican II, many dioceses have heeded the call to liturgical renewal that allowed for a more active participation of all the Church's members. Under the pastoral authority of the bishops, the liturgy has been enriched through the introduction of local languages in prayers and readings. Rituals have become more meaningful through adopting common gestures, dances, music and songs, traditional and newly-composed. Church buildings are often designed and constructed by local persons and often decorated with paintings or carvings by local artists. Catechesis has been made more lively by a sound use of traditional stories, modern drama and poetry. The processions, pilgrimages and devotions to Mary and the saints, often introduced by missionaries, have been developed and enriched with many local symbols and customs, and are very popular in some places. In marriage and burial rites, a positive use of indigenous symbols has been made. Traditional gestures have been introduced in reconciliation ceremonies. Spontaneous and enthusiastic expressions of faith and communion in Christ have been fostered by contributions from many local and indigenous peoples.

Many responses point out that this kind of inculturation is an ongoing and gradual process. It needs sufficient time for critical and wise experimentation. A thorough evaluation will lead to encouragement and, where needed, correcting the attempts that have been made in the past. The original sense of the sacred, present in so many indigenous cultures, is a stepping-stone for Catholic liturgy. From the beginning, existing religious expressions, often accepted by missionaries, had to be oriented towards and brought to fulfilment in Jesus Christ, the absolute fullness of God's self- revelation to the world.

The contemporary approach to indigenous religious expressions is even more positive than in earlier times. This change in attitude on the part of the Church has confused some older Catholics. Many responses ask, therefore, that further inculturation be effected with great prudence and be accompanied by careful catechesis.

The positive effect of a well-guided inculturation is that members of a given cultural society feel more at home in the Catholic faith and worship. Of course, the communion with the Universal Church and her traditions demands the respect and adherence to the essential elements and rules that she has developed over the centuries. Diversity in accordance with the local culture is to be encouraged as much as possible, without destroying Catholic unity. The bishops' conference has the responsibility to approve appropriate liturgical forms and formulas as long as these are in accordance with the teaching and the guidelines of the universal Church. The local bishops know the cultural values underlying the required changes and such knowledge is indispensable for judging how liturgy can be meaningful to the local cultural community. The possibility and need for more liturgical inculturation will also depend on the particular Catholic rite to which the community belongs. The Eastern Catholic Churches in Australia continue to treasure their liturgy, so deeply bound to the national culture and society, and so rich in Christian values.

An important area of inculturation is the translation of the Bible into local languages. Many successful efforts have been made by bishops and scholars, often in ecumenical collaboration and with the generous help of the national and international Bible Societies. This help from the Protestant communities is mentioned with gratitude in many responses. Thanks to these translations, the written word of God is now available to readers of the indigenous languages. The inculturation of the biblical message is not completed by having a printed text. It has to be followed by regular reading and meditation, especially of the New Testament. The appropriation of God's Word is supported by creative biblical drama and spontaneous prayer inspired by biblical passages.

Youth Culture

15. In modern society youth seems to have its own culture. Youth culture is different from the general culture in that it expresses the particular interests, needs and desires of the young, often seen as a protest against the older generation. In the more urbanised areas of Oceania, the youth culture is strongly influenced by that of North America and Europe. Many responses mention how difficult it is for the Church to reach out to the younger generation or to involve them in Church activities. There is a need to inculturate essential elements of the Christian truth and faith in forms understandable to young people. Catholic youth groups and movements are making genuine efforts in this direction. At the same time, young people, who are touched by the Gospel and listen to the call of Jesus Christ, are invited to live a life in opposition to the commonly-accepted lifestyle of those who do not share their Christian faith and convictions.

Young people are the hope of the Church in Oceania. They are searching for authenticity and truth, for meaning and life. They want happiness and love, communion and the opportunity to serve. It is important that they can hear and express the Christian faith in forms that they appreciate and understand but also in a way which makes reference unambiguously to Jesus Christ in the communion of the Church. Good family life can help young people find what they are searching for. Faced with many challenges, Christian parents in Oceania often make great but not always successful efforts to guide and educate their children so that they grow up as responsible persons and good Christians.

In this context, various responses again refer to the vital role of the mass media. Young people need to develop a critical sense to make a wise use of the media. Often the media transmit questionable or even immoral messages. Young people sometimes find themselves as objects and victims of the commercial intentions behind the policy of media organisations. The Church has to call upon those responsible to do justice to the rights and the dignity of young people. They have a right to hear the truth, to be presented with what promotes a culture of life and true love, and not to be seduced by an anti-culture of drugs and violence. They must not be drawn to greed and ambition or to a selfish pursuit of easy happiness, but to ideals of selfless generosity and courageous service of the needy. Much good can be done for young people by the media, when they respect and reflect the Christian faith and morality.

 

CHAPTER III

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

 

Urbanisation

16. Australia and New Zealand are the more urbanised countries in Oceania. Most other countries have growing capitol cities and smaller towns. The urban areas increasingly attract people from the rural areas. People expect to find more individual freedom, a greater variety of goods and the hope of prosperity. When they do not succeed, however, they have to cope with unemployment, poverty and sickness. Tough competition and inadequate education sometimes induce them to join gangs, to be exploited or to engage in immoral or criminal activities like prostitution. Despite these problems, people tend to move to the cities. Many responses refer to a problematic urban drift in most parts of Oceania. Some advocate a strong support of the Church in rural areas, where basic services and commodities of life should be maintained, so that people are less-tempted to leave their home place. The Church must not so easily abandon the rural population, but challenge those economical ideologies that lead policy-makers to promote urbanisation.

After moving to the city, some Catholics seem to lose interest in regular religious practice. Religion becomes marginal once they are cut off from their rural home or their cultural society. Many perceive the Church community as not interested in them. When they live on the margins of society, in urban settlements or as squatters, people can sometimes feel that they are not important to the Church. In such situations, the Church needs to express concern, offer help and speak-out on their socio-economic problems. The urban lifestyle can lead to individualism, hard competition and materialism, while human solidarity is limited. At the same time, the urban drift and the urbanisation of culture offer new challenges and opportunities to the Catholic community. The creation of associations for families or women, youth groups, social services and movements to support the needy are responding to such challenges. They can bring about a new Christian solidarity. The city parishes are challenged to develop an appropriate pastoral plan in which the lay people have an important role to play. The pastoral care for the parish community will try to reach out to the un- Churched members as well as to seek contact with non-Catholics.

The city is especially attractive to young people. In the city they find not only many opportunities but also many risks and dangers. Many are drawn to join violent gangs; others are victims of immorality or injustice. Many more, however, use the educational facilities, develop human skills and respond to the challenges in a Christian way. The vocational schools are of great help to urban youth. Another way to help them is in the formation of youth groups and movements with activities in sports, music, and other arts or forms of recreation. These movements also offer the possibility of forming volunteers for the social services. Some responses suggest that the whole Christian community is called upon to face up to this new challenge in modern society. Priests, religious and laity need to be close to these young people, to train and teach them, to accompany them in their families, and to be with those who have had to leave their families to live in community hostels.

Colonisation, Migration and Tourism

17. The present social structure of large parts of Oceania is the result of previous colonisation, especially in Australia and New Zealand, but also in New Caledonia and Fiji. In these countries the original indigenous population has to cope with the effects of large-scale immigration from colonial times. In some places the indigenous population has become an ethnic minority, leading them sometimes to feel disenfranchised because of a lack of respect for their identity and development. They look upon other ethnic groups of European and Asian descent as more wealthy, privileged and powerful. The political and economical problems of these indigenous communities reflect the tensions between the ethnic groups. They reveal the historical injustice that was perpetrated and whose wounds remain to this day. Greater efforts are being made to rectify the injustices and to heal the wounds inflicted in the past by colonisation policies. In some countries, there is need of national reconciliation between the descendants of people on opposite sides of the conflict. The Church has the right and the will to contribute to this process. National reconciliation is an indispensable condition for internal peace and real progress. There is a place for repentance and forgiveness without undermining the sense of justice. Above all, the Church believes in the power of God's Spirit, the Bearer of Peace, reaching farther and deeper than all human efforts.

There are large problems like the question of land ownership. Land issues are particularly problematic in Australia with regard to the Aborigines and in New Zealand with regard to the Maori people. In Fiji and other countries of Oceania, it is a difficult problem for all parties involved. For the indigenous people land is an important, deeply symbolic reality. The land represents the source and stability of life. The issue of land is very sensitive for them, as it is also for those who gained possession and developed it, thereby contributing to the prosperity of the country. Any satisfactory solution can only be found with patience and great wisdom, in a dialogue involving all groups concerned. In many ways, all members of the Church can help those who are less fortunate and who suffer from unemployment, poverty, violence and immorality in the societies of Oceania. Minority groups often lack the economical or political power to change their life sufficiently or even to stand up for their rights. Only when they are supported by the solidarity of other groups is their voice heard.

Recent immigration has brought more people from Eastern Europe and Asia to Oceania, especially to Australia. People of the Pacific Islands migrate in greater numbers to Australia or New Zealand. The important challenge faced by these groups is that of integration into an already established population. The Church has a special concern for these ethnic groups. The responses mention that the pastoral care of these people is being done by appointed chaplains, who help them by celebrating liturgies in their native language. The greater the cultural difference between the incoming groups and the established population, the more difficult and slow the integration will be. Promotion of social justice and tolerance are very important in this process. In the peaceful process of integration the communication media can play a supporting role.

In a culturally-mixed society the danger of social prejudice and racism exists, sometimes expressed in hidden and subtle forms. Racism has been clearly condemned by the Church. All Catholics need to be constantly alert to the elements of racism in society. People whose human rights are threatened or the poor are those who are most likely to migrate. Recently the bishops of Australia have spoken out against government attempts to curb the possibility for people from other continents to enter the country, to find a better life there and to contribute to its prosperity and richness. In many parts of Oceania refugees have been welcomed by the Christian community. The Church has spoken on their behalf and assisted them socially and pastorally. The defence of their human rights is an important consequence of the Christian call to justice and solidarity.

Tourism is only a limited problem in Oceania, though in some countries it is a growing industry, promoted by the government. The responses point out the values for the tourists themselves: knowledge of other lands and cultures, entertainment, relaxation and recreation. For the local population, tourism provides valuable income. However, it can also have negative effects, especially when the indigenous culture is still traditional. The materialistic thrust of the industry and of many tourists has a negative influence. At times, the behaviour of foreign visitors leads to problems. In some countries, the Church has strongly and effectively protested against gambling and the establishment of casinos.


PART II

TELLING THE TRUTH OF JESUS CHRIST

 

Christ the Truth

18. "What is truth?" (Jn 18: 38) was the question that tortured Pilate's conscience. Truth is the question that stirs every human conscience for it is by finding the truth that a person discovers a reason for living and a course of life to follow, even unto death. Baptism begins Christian life by incorporating a new believer into the community of faith. This is the faith that answers Pilate's question, "What is truth?". It is also the only satisfying response to Paul's query, "Who are you, Lord?" (Acts 9: 4). The answer to the question of truth is personal, not only because it evokes a personal commitment to follow a set of ideas, a philosophy of life or some programme for self-fulfilment, but also because it involves the "Person" of Jesus Christ.

The Church's Task of Evangelisation

19. The Church's task today is to continue Christ's mission as witness to the truth manifested by His Father. The world-wide challenge for the Church is to tell Christ's truth by preaching His Good News so that it can be heard anew, calling the world of the Year 2000 to faith, conversion, and the fullness of life in God. Pope John Paul II's programme for the new evangelisation wants to make Christ known to the whole world.

Many of the responses to the Lineamenta gave reasons as to why evangelisation as telling the Gospel truth must be the Church's first priority today, i.e., to revise methods, to seek by every means to study how the Church can bring the Christian message to the individual, because it is only in embracing the Christian message that the person of today can find the answer to life's questions and the energy to be committed to human solidarity.

To harvest the Gospel's power and bring the life of the Church in Oceania to the world, the responses illustrated how, in answer to Pope John Paul II's call for a new evangelisation, bishops have established comprehensive programmes of renewal in their dioceses. These take into account the spiritual renewal of all the principal groups composing the ecclesial community–clergy, consecrated persons and laity. The energy of the Gospel penetrates not only individual consciences but purifies and transforms social structures and cultures as well. Since each local Church should be an evangelised and evangelising community, the bishops' aim has been to put the Second Vatican Council's ecclesiology of communion into practice. Consequently they want a more participatory community as a result of the changes introduced by the Council, a community where the faithful can use their gifts, talents and charisms in service of the Church and world, as God wills. They are calling for more communication and collaboration among the groups and organisation within the Church, and for more openness and dialogue with the world, its history and its needs. Some responses are quite enthusiastic about the successes already achieved through God's grace. Others, mostly from secularised societies, registered difficulties, some confusion and, as yet, a certain lack of efficacy in these programmes of renewal, especially in stemming the drift of faithful away from the Church.

In general, the responses saw the means of evangelisation as the heading under which the other topics to be discussed could usefully be grouped. According to them, these means need to be re-examined so that they reflect a truly Gospel vision of life for today, a vision that will inspire new initiatives, will assist local Churches set goals, priorities, and criteria for their effectiveness, will show how to overcome obstacles, and will animate with the Spirit's strength the agents and institutions commissioned for the task of evangelisation. Some bishops planned their programmes of renewal in such a way that the stages, which were followed, moved in step with the community's state and growth in faith development. All these programmes are directed to deepening the Church's sense of her identity and mission in Oceania.

 

CHAPTER I

EVANGELISATION

 

Spreading the Good News

20. Evangelisation is the activity of spreading the Gospel to the whole world as the Apostles were commanded by our Risen Lord. It is essentially telling the truth of Jesus Christ as the way of salvation for humanity. It happens in three phases, when His word is proclaimed in preaching and teaching, when it is celebrated in worship through the sacraments, and when it is radiated by the witness of the believing community to culture in all its depth and dimensions. Proclamation, celebration and witness are all necessary elements of evangelisation and are mutually interdependent for the building up of the Kingdom. Through evangelisation the Church is built up into a community of faith, more precisely into a community that confesses the faith in full adherence to the Word of God, which is celebrated in the sacraments and lived in charity, the principle of Christian existence.

Many responses highlighted the underlying difficulty that many of the faithful still see evangelisation as a special vocation given to others and not as the mission of the Church herself, and hence not as a command of the Lord to every believer in one's proper life-situation. The Gospel is proclaimed in its simplest, everyday form by the witness of the good life of Christians, "faith working through love" (Gal 5: 6). In other words, when the life of a believer accords with the Gospel and when it rings true and is genuine, those who have never met Christ are provoked to query themselves about life's meaning, about destiny and why Christ makes such a difference to His disciples.

Witness of life shows Christ's Gospel to the world as "..a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (1 Pt 3: 15). The explicit proclamation of the word of life calls to faith and conversion; it is the foundation of the Church as the community of believers. This telling of the truth of Jesus Christ in a public proclamation is evangelisation in the strict sense. The Church radiates the Christian message to the world in evangelising herself through the celebration of the sacraments whereby she is enlivened by her intimate union with Christ. A simple test of this truth is whether the evangelised community evangelises others and whether it calls others into the Kingdom of God's beloved Son in the power of the Spirit.

The particular Churches in Oceania were founded by missionaries from Europe and America. The responses acknowledged that while their faith and culture are part of the heritage of those continents, they are not particular "European" or "American" Churches. This consciousness of their identity has increased and they are becoming more confident about what they can add to the treasures of the Universal Church out of God's wonderful gifts to the new-found particular Churches born under the Southern Cross. The responses insist that these Churches cannot simply transmit a Christianity foreign to the region. They have their own vitality and creative capacities in dealing with secularised society, and also have established missionary outreach in the Pacific, Papua-New Guinea and South East Asia. With the passing of time, these particular Churches are forging their identity in terms of the cultures of the nations where they were founded.

Many responses drew attention to the urgency of the present moment as a time of salvation (cf. 2 Cor 6: 2). It is a crucial turning-point because these nations are now giving new expression to their identity in the political, cultural and religious fields. This means they must assume new rights and obligations. Many insist that in this process the Church has the opportunity and the duty of providing moral leadership and guidance. A great opportunity will be lost if the local Churches do not proclaim the Gospel in such a way that it resonates with the local experience of their cultures and history.

 

Today's Challenges

21. In some dioceses, missionary activity today is put in question. 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 faith and live for God. The call of the Gospel is universal, penetrating all cultures and experiences. "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).

Various responses mention that if the Gospel is to grow and spread in Oceania in the same way as is described in The Acts of the Apostles, all in the Church need to be more aware of her missionary nature, especially by finding new ways of sharing in Christ's mission. Nearly all the missionary bishops appealed for help in terms of finances and personnel so that their dioceses might achieve a more secure autonomy. They feel this lack of resources is the main factor holding back their efforts. For instance, if there were more priests in the villages, new religious groups hostile to the Church could not so easily make inroads there.

These same bishops are also seeking to recruit and train a greater number of suitable candidates as catechists who will assist priests in pastoral work. Catechists are often very effective by the very fact that they actually live in the villages and share people's activities. Many dioceses have established courses to train evangelisers. Some responses suggest the forming of itinerant teams of evangelisers that would go from village to village, proclaiming the Gospel in a lively, charismatic way. Some would like to make much wider use of lay preaching, so as to proclaim the Gospel from door to door and in the town square. It was pointed out that in these cultures the faith has been handed on orally, especially by narrative and story-telling. These still remain the principal means of communication. Faith does come by hearing; this is a universal rule for the Church's proclamation. Hence the need for retreats, for better instruction, for expanding the catechumenate and the call for a revival of parish missions.

The developed countries also need evangelisers with a missionary spirit to tell the truth of Jesus Christ so that their very secular cultures may hear the voice of Christ–as it were 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). Many responses coming from all parts of Oceania identified the hard nub of everything opposed to the Gospel in their societies as "secularism". This seems to mean more than just the process of secularisation, which may be described as the growth of autonomous institutions needing neither Church control nor authority to make them socially viable. Such a development is not necessarily opposed to faith and may in fact be an expression of the faith, acknowledging the legitimate autonomy of worldly realities.

Quite a number of responses associated secularism with consumerism, i.e., the seeking for profit above all else, and with a hedonistic mentality that corrodes the faith, often without even being noticed. Where the faith is being weakened or destroyed by the tremendous social changes in progress, it is right to speak of secularism. The secularisation affecting the developed countries is also influencing island and indigenous communities. While these still have their own local cultural horizons to which evangelisation must adjust, they too are undergoing modern, secularising trends. Both types of society need to find missionaries for their distinctive conditions. The crisis in evangelisation is more than just a crisis of faith; it is also a crisis of culture. A number of responses state quite explicitly that the faith has not sufficiently penetrated the culture in question so as to call it and lead it to Christ.

Most responses highlight how the Church is inevitably caught up with other social institutions which are likewise caught up in the current of rapid change and transformation. The result is that the faithful often become confused when they cannot make sense of these events in terms of faith as the "signs of the times". This situation becomes even more confusing and complex when the changes introduced in the Church's life are perceived strictly in the same manner. All the institutions of modern society, law, government, democracy itself, education, medicine, communication and transport, commerce and banking, etc., are subject to deep and rapid change. There was mention of Church-State tensions that have occasionally openly manifested themselves in some countries.

A number of responses reflected on how change appears to fragment the Catholic community and to weaken projects of evangelisation. Some of the faithful surge toward reform, renewal and further plans for change. The need they perceive for modernising Church life and making it relevant today draws some, at times, into open dissent against Church teaching. Others resist, hanging onto what they see as the sure treasures of their inheritance. Still others have been known to leave the Church or, as more often happens, form small groups in which they feel more comfortable outside the main lines of Church life. Since such groups are not recognized by Church authority, they usually strive to have others in the Church think as they do.

Most responses referred to the need for leadership that would draw the community together by sound teaching and practical guidance so as to manifest Christ present in His Church, teaching His people through the bishop. The responses point out that the Church has immense capability to meet these new challenges. Bishops are strengthened by the truth of the Gospel and Christ's mandate to preach it to every creature. They are inspired by the memory of those who have gone before them: the generations of bishops, priests, deacons and laity, dedicated to telling the Good News. In their responses the bishops desire that diocesan and parochial institutions be established for instruction in the faith and that the apostolate of charity thrive and grow strong. They emphasise the need to introduce institutions more appropriate for today. In this regard, the new ecclesial movements have a prominent place. Many responses were concerned that women should be more active and better represented and integrated into the life of the Church. The Church is inspired by a cloud of witnesses (cf. Heb 12: 1) to Gospel values in civil life, the professions, the workplace and the home. The laity are more than ever necessary today, as the Church strains forward in the work of transmitting the Gospel in a contemporary world where they can enter to fulfill their proper vocation and mission in the secular order.

 

CHAPTER II

PROCLAMATION AND CATECHESIS

 

Kerygma: The Initial Proclamation of the Gospel

22. The first telling of the Gospel truth was Christ's call to conversion, beginning His public ministry 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 at hand, now. This is the time for people to stretch out their hands to grasp their salvation. However, society today throws up many barriers that make people of good will hesitant or even reluctant to respond positively to the call of conversion. Commitment to Christ in faith is counter-cultural in the post-modern condition. A number of responses focussed on indifference as the predominant social sentiment today. In that sense, the difficulties thrown up by culture as barriers to the Gospel challenge the Church to undertake a new evangelisation of culture.

As she undertakes this task of proclaiming the Truth to society, she often experiences opposition and hostility. Many insist that there are strong social forces that would like to relegate the Church–and religion in general–to the realm of private life, where she would be merely a matter of individual choice. Many people cannot see why her preaching should influence political life and public policy. This is what has been referred to as the divorce of Christ and culture, the secularism that would neutralise the influence of the Christian message on law, social institutions and customs, so that society can function wholly independently of the Christian faith.

The responses pointed to two factors in particular where Gospel values are under challenge, the mass media and government legislation. The mass media are by their very nature popular and tremendously important in establishing the tone, atmosphere and commonly-accepted values in society. The immense amount of wealth that goes into financing the media is a measure of its importance for those who want to influence social values. Legislation gives form to a society by founding the institutions and legal framework within which that society lives and operates. At the moment, legislation is often the point where social conflict is concentrated, since the economic, education, health, and communications' systems are all shaped and regulated by it. Decisions in the courts can have a profound impact on social practices, moral values and the Church's position in society. Many responses noted attempts to put laws in place that would undermine Gospel values, traditional in Western society. In this situation, Catholic institutions can easily become unsure of their identity and their evangelising mission in such a culture.

Such a state of affairs has an effect on the Church's members, who by necessity are influenced by the prevailing culture and have to come to terms with its formative influence. The Church is usually a minority in the nations of Oceania and this has a profound impact on the way Catholics think and act. Often people hear the Gospel as society interprets it and not as the Church in her Tradition and teaching proposes it. Many people now see the Gospel as just another product on sale in today's intellectual and spiritual marketplace. It was against this background, whether in the missions or in secularised societies, that a number of responses referred to the Second Vatican Council as a new Pentecost where the Holy Spirit as Advocate would bring assistance in discerning and solving such problems.

The felt absence of a religious sense in the culture permeates into people's moral lives and consciences. Some reports dwelt on what the Church should do in view of a growing trend to challenge traditional values and of the increase in agnosticism and even atheism. Such a plurality of value-systems often leads to ethical relativism which negatively affects evangelisation. Many people are searching for meaning in life by experimenting with different lifestyles. They need the sure moral guidance and spiritual nourishment that only the Church can provide. Some responses commented on the irony of a situation where spiritual hunger is greater than ever, but sacramental practice continues to slide in secularised societies. The answers proposed to this situation are in the direction of a conception of Church as the Sacrament of Salvation, so that the union of the believer with God and with the community of humanity, gathered around Christ in the Church, becomes a felt, lived reality. This reality needs to be guaranteed by sound doctrinal teaching, and by a community of participation where all can follow the movement of the Spirit in a liturgy of praise to the Father.

Vatican Council II

23. In Oceania, the renewal introduced by the Second Vatican Council points the way for the future and has already had positive effects for evangelisation. Since the Council was experienced as a new Pentecost, it directs people to look for a faith-approach to modern culture. A great number of responses witness to how bishops have been promoting an understanding of faith as a free, mature commitment in conscience to Christ that has to be lived out in a changing world. "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (Jn 8: 32).

The separation of faith from life has been resolved for those who really took the Council's message to heart. The Spirit is moving the Church in Oceania to discover new ways of telling the truth of Jesus Christ in a secular society. Among these are included: a renewed liturgy in the vernacular; translations of the Bible into local languages, improved efforts, at national and diocesan levels, in preaching and presenting the faith; founding national or diocesan institutes for formation or in-service training and continuing education; new catechetical texts; courses for catechists; the introduction of adult education in the faith; the involvement of many dedicated catechists preparing the coming generation of Catholics, particularly for the sacraments; new spiritual movements; the growth of retreat centres and houses of prayer; the possibility of theological education at the university level for laity and many 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; the beginnings of local theologies and systematic reflection on local realities, etc.

However, some particular difficulties require attention. Too few people avail themselves of the opportunities of renewal and evangelisation, when courses or programmes are provided. It is very difficult to transport these resources to remote areas and present them in ways adapted to the native population. There were a number of suggestions that specialists or itinerant teams could dedicate themselves explicitly to fulfilling these needs. Retreats, parish missions and longer formation programmes were also proposed. The new ecclesial movements, because they have structures that foresee a long maturation in Christian living, were felt to be useful, but not always present in remote areas. Traditional devotions, for instance, to the Passion and to Our Lady, often seem to meet with the people's approval, but sometimes leave the challenge of the Church's social mission and of meeting the needs of the poor unanswered.

Catechesis

24. In the work of evangelisation, the programme of formation through which persons develop and deepen their knowledge of the faith is called catechesis. It elaborates and explains the truth of Christ accepted in the Kerygma and applies it to life. Catechesis is the principle means of passing on the faith from generation to generation, and is, therefore, essential to the Church's mission.

The responses describe a number of ways for effectively communicating the faith. A regular course of instruction taught by the catechist is frequently what is envisaged. This is done as an obligatory unit in the curriculum of Catholic schools. A number of responses reported some serious failures and lacks in these schools in the developed countries. Programmes in government schools are generally less regular and effective, but with exceptions. In quite a number of cases, government schools are not covered at all by regular effective catechesis. Finance is often lacking. Many parishes have taken over sacramental preparation programmes for Eucharist, Confession and Confirmation from Catholic schools so as to have parents more deeply involved. There is a limited number of general catechetical programmes centred on the parish. Generally, catechesis works well at the primary level, but becomes more problematic as students move through secondary school.

Some responses said that school-catechesis often put children well ahead of their parents in the knowledge of the faith. Various responses mention that there is a grave need, therefore, for adult catechesis. Programmes planned to fulfill this need are often successful, where they can help people understand their life and work as a vocation that can be fully understood only in faith. Unfortunately, they are rarely well-attended. The need for adult education in the faith was a recurrent theme in the replies. In some places a vast amount of finance and well-trained personnel are dedicated to this task. A good number of responses noted that it is difficult to find competent personnel; sometimes there is nobody to fill a position, and sometimes there is a lack of interest.

The quality of adult catechesis is a widely-felt concern. It is often very difficult to find reliable texts that faithfully cover the Church's teaching on doctrine and morals and that treat the subject in a way adapted to cultural needs. Some texts even envisage a completely different culture. A few responses recounted a disturbing lack of knowledge of the faith that leaves people vulnerable to the new religious movements and other philosophies of life. Though the media is being used in catechetics, it needs to be more widely utilised, so as to enliven and vary the presentation, particularly in reaching a mass-audience as a culture-forming force. Catechists need to be trained in media use so as to be capable of passing on to students a critical appreciation of the moral values propagated by the media.

All responses describe how teachers of catechetics are being formed in their region. Their work is highly praised. However, the desire is expressed to improve the quality and number of formation programmes. It is often difficult to find persons willing to go into government schools, because that work requires a particular dedication. Many dioceses send those destined for this work away to obtain degrees, sometimes advanced degrees. The situation raises questions as to the culture and the mentality which these students will acquire and its suitableness in the local setting.

The responses from mission dioceses often highlighted the need of simple, clear courses on Scripture founded on sound scientific exegesis. They also desire that ecumenism, Church history and justice and peace be made a systematic component of the curriculum in catechesis. In the more secular cultures, others called for a systematic exposition of the Church's social doctrine and how it is to be taught in schools and colleges. Many responses expressed profound gratitude for the service performed by these catechetical agents over the years. In many places these people are the most numerous body of the faithful, working untiringly to spread the faith.

The Means of Social Communication

25. In today's society contact with the great multitude of the faithful as well as with the wider society is only possible through mass communication. A number of responses remarked that the bishop has foremost responsibility in this area, particularly since it involves the image the Church takes on in society as a whole. It is his task to see that new initiatives are undertaken. According to the responses, video seems to be widely available, radio used often with good effect, and television utilised to a lesser extent. Sometimes governments or stations themselves pay for transmission time on the radio. Most responses gave major attention to radio because access to television is sometimes difficult. Some responses were of the conviction that the Church needs to find the financial resources necessary to be a mass communicator on television, simply to fulfill her mission of announcing Christ in a technological society.

Secular culture gains its influence largely through the media, particularly television. The Church needs to train experts in the media for several reasons: to provide occasions for her proclamation of the truth, to enter into public discussion and debate, to make Church events and occurrences known to the public, to make her artistic and cultural heritage available as a continuing tradition, and to communicate her religious and human values to the whole community. The Church has a special mission to those in the media; she needs to provide pastoral care and keep in contact with management, producers, writers, artists and performers. She needs to have input on moral standards comprising the codes of ethics for the industry.

It is pointed out that Catholic newspapers are also a valuable way of keeping the Catholic community informed, especially when it comes to defending the rights of minorities. In some places the radio has the function of keeping communities united by keeping them informed about Church events. The printed media and radio have great educational value. Some responses held that some ways of telling the truth of Jesus Christ in a secular culture still have to be worked out.

 

CHAPTER III

CATHOLIC EDUCATION

 

The Faith and Teaching

26. After their concern for teaching the faith and catechising, the next great concern in the responses was Catholic education. Each diocese has striven to build Catholic schools with the aim of educating the whole person. The school is the point at which the Church touches the culture most intensely because in this setting young people are prepared for life, for their choice of vocation and profession, and for their work and mission in the world. Schools are integral to the task of evangelisation, because in these institutions the Gospel reaches out to the world, throwing the light of revelation on all secular realities.

The Catholic school should be an extension of the Church community. One difficulty that sometimes comes to the fore is the growing divide between school and parish. For many Catholic parents their only contact with the Church is now through the school. Another concern was that teachers in Catholic Schools often have lives or ideas that are publicly in conflict with Church teaching, and are thus a counter-sign to her witness. This can be truly harmful for youth. The departure of so many religious from teaching in schools has also seriously weakened the faith-atmosphere that should prevail. Laity have often considered their teaching profession a true vocation from God and have contributed faithfully and in difficult circumstances to spreading the Gospel among the young. Catholic schools are only effective when they communicate the faith and maintain the high standards of academic excellence.

Catholic schools are the spearhead of the Church's mission to the world. The Catholic Church's history in Oceania could not be written without acknowledging the prime part Catholic schools played in planting, communicating and preserving the faith. This was only possible because of tremendous sacrifices made by parents and teachers. Because of them, Catholic schools survived even when governments opposed them, by denying them financial justice. Today, the Church acknowledges her gratitude to the great body of dedicated teachers.

Towards the Future

27. The work of preparing the leaders of tomorrow's society is in the hands of the universities. The recent foundation of Catholic universities is an important moment in the history of the Church in Oceania. In Universities, research can be carried out that will allow the light of the Gospel to penetrate to the depths of culture, bringing Catholic values to the institutions of law, medicine, politics, commerce, literature and the arts. Special attention needs to be afforded the ecclesiastical disciplines of Scripture, theology in all its specialisations, Church history, canon law, philosophy and spirituality, in view of the Church's own needs. The caliber of Church life and the pastoral action of bishops and priests are very dependent on the fine quality of these studies for which the Church has been distinguished in the past. Some of the responses noted that renewal had been superficial and had run into many barriers, because clergy and laity had not been well-prepared intellectually. The future of the Church in Oceania relies on good formation. Catholic universities are the seed-beds for future leaders in society. Local bishops oversee their growth and recognise that the students of today will be tomorrow's administrators, opinion-makers and professional advisers.

Chaplains and pastoral teams are needed in tertiary institutions for the spiritual needs not only of students but of professors, teachers, administrators and all personnel. Their task is to sensitise Catholics to their mission in the world and to make the Church present in academic affairs and public debate.

 

CHAPTER IV

ECUMENISM

 

Towards Christian Unity

28. Ecumenism is among the priorities of the particular Churches in Oceania. The Second Vatican Council underlined how lack of unity among the followers of Christ impedes evangelisation. In response to the prayer of Christ, "that they may be one" (Jn 17: 22), the bishops of Oceania have in various ways sought contact and friendly relations with the leaders and the communities of the other Christian denominations. Most dioceses have an ecumenical commission with an expert designated for developing good relations with the other mainline Christian Communities. The Catholic Church is often a member of regional and national Councils of Churches. A long list of common activities is recorded in the responses. In a few cases, diocesan ecumenical commissions have still to be established. Most responses show that relations with the Christian Communities have vastly improved since the Council, particularly as regards the overcoming of old prejudices.

Concerns

29. Some responses expressed a concern that joining in common social projects can sometimes cause doctrine to be quietly put aside as unimportant or not noteworthy. Others stated that in some situations ecclesial communities go their separate ways, as it were, indifferent to each other's existence. In such situations, in spite of the Catholic Church's good intentions, it is quite difficult to get dialogue started. There is real difficulty working with ecclesial communities that do not share a common understanding of the nature and goals of ecumenical activity.

In the islands, ecumenism comes quite naturally and there are many forms of sharing that cement community relationships. Sometimes doctrinal differences keep the communities apart, but rarely does ecumenism develop into a deeper discussion of doctrine in the proper sense. Things are more mixed in Papua-New Guinea. While relations are usually warm with the Lutheran and Anglican communities, there has been a slowing down in activity overall. Australia and New Zealand have benefited greatly from ecumenism, both in the particular Churches and the civic community. The stage of recognition and mutual respect seems to be well-established. The challenge now is for fuller and deeper knowledge of the participating Churches and ecclesial communities. Theological research is called for as well as experts who can pass their knowledge and competence on to future generations of ecumenists, who can carry this project forward.

 

CHAPTER V

INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

 

A Plurality of Religions and Religious Movements

30. The religious situation in Oceania is becoming more pluralistic and complicated. There are a great number of religions and religious movements as well as cults with which the Church comes in contact. Each of these needs to be treated according to its proper identity and history. Some responses think it is necessary to distinguish between those which somehow base their identity in Baptism and the Bible and those that do not.

The growth of new religious movements outside the Church, both in the islands and in Papua-New Guinea, is a phenomenon that is one of the great challenges for the particular Churches in Oceania today. The responses reveal the bishops' concern that these are splitting communities and leading people away from the Church. Recently–they report–this phenomenon has reached new proportions. One category of these religious movements is composed of groups which are offshoots of other Christian denominations. Some have a considerable history behind them, while others are recently formed. They are usually described as offering a warm, emotional, charismatic and welcoming feeling in a close-knit small group, an experience some Catholics seem to be lacking in some communities. Music, song, dance, powerful preaching and speaking in tongues play an important part in attracting persons to these religions, particularly youth. They often fill an emotional vacuum, where people have been searching for meaning in life. Their fundamentalist doctrines give security and assurance.

Catholics are sometimes tempted to join them, because of a clash with a priest or pastoral worker, or because of an irregular marriage situation. These religions use Scripture to put unsuspecting, honest people in fear of their salvation. They concentrate on house-to-house visitation, often using as a tactic approaching people in moments of grief, sickness or personal crisis. They show a positive way of dealing with people and making them feel at home in their communities. This should be a challenge to Catholics in their evangelising programs to be more personal and attentive to the individual. Some say these religious movements offer material benefits to gain followers. Their attitude to the Catholic Church is typical of the religious prejudice that prevailed before the ecumenical movement began.

There is still much work to be done in understanding these religions and in finding the appropriate language to describe them correctly. Catholics are often not sure how to distinguish one group from another. The use of the word "sect" is problematic in so far as it implies that these groups should not be treated as genuine religions. It also needs to be taken into account how adhesion to such religions can be a response to rapid social change that radically challenges people's religious convictions. Many responses insist that the Church might learn much from her experiences in this area.

Groups within the Catholic Church

31. Some groups, particularly in the Melanesian areas, mix their apocalyptic imagery and message with indigenous traditions of "cargo cult." The expected end of this world is made to coincide with the breaking in of a totally new and better society, with all the goods and benefits people are longing for. These dreams and aspirations are connected with biblical messages used 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, indeed Catholic, symbols and expressions, these groups distort people's desire and need for salvation. The existence of such phenomena 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 best traditions.

A number of responses thought that "sects" in question 10 of theLineamenta meant exclusivist groups within the Catholic Church who display sect-like features and behaviour. There is a great amount of confusion about the use of terms and to whom they properly apply. The stated groups often organise to draw people away from their parishes to attend liturgies and other activities reserved to group initiates. They thus alienate people from their parishes by providing alternative structures and styles of religiosity. Adherents of such groups often fall under the spell of a leader who acts as spiritual guide in all matters. These groups are not approved by appropriate authority and usually proceed without the bishop's knowledge, very often against his express wishes, when he comes to know of their activities. They have the effect of seriously splitting and dividing the Catholic community. People join because of a sincere desire for prayer, devotion and spiritual growth.

Other Traditions

32. Not all the religions operating in Oceania have Christian roots. In the more secularised societies, however, one of the largest groups is the ex- Catholics. A good many of these are taken up with forms of self- improvement or self-realisation that go back to Eastern traditions such as yoga. They easily get caught up in a vague New Age spirituality, characteristic of a fragmented post-modern world. The fact that they are on a spiritual journey does not necessarily mean they join any identifiable group or organisation. Others, of course, do become members of a religion in the proper sense.

The religion of the Australian aborigines was mentioned in a number of responses. It needs to be studied and better understood so as to discern its meaning in the context of liturgy and inculturation. Some responses called for further study of the religions of the Pacific islands and Papua-New Guinea as well.

Buddhism is on the increase in Australia, because of recent migration from Asia and because its compassionate, spiritually tempered values are attractive in a frenetic, modern society. Islam has a considerable presence in various parts of Oceania, and there are some cases of well-established dialogue, as in Fiji. Judaism is present only in some of the large cities as a religious, intellectual and cultural force. In some places the Catholic Church has joined the Council of Christians and Jews. Organs of dialogue have been established as well as on-going conversations, particularly on the Holocaust.

 

CHAPTER VI

JUSTICE AND PEACE

 

The Jubilee Year: A Call to Justice

33. In preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Church repeats Christ's sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth proclaiming, the acceptable year of the Lord: to proclaim release to captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed (cf. Lk 4: 18- 19). It is a time when the earth itself rests and, as it were, returns to God, whose will is the universal destination of all goods for the benefit of humanity, for nobody should ever want for the necessities of life or human dignity. The Church's message to the world is that a civilisation of love is possible where justice and peace reign. Christians await 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).

Many bishops made a strong call for the Church to engage in the work of social justice. They were inspired by Pope John Paul II's encyclicalsSollicitudo rei socialis and Centesimus annus especially with concern for the condition of the poor and underprivileged in society. They emphasised that the Special Assembly should bring about an appreciation of the Church's continual concern and dedication for the above people who are specially loved by the Lord Jesus. The responses show that in recent years the Church's proclamation of justice and peace, at the national level, has been quite strong and convincing to large numbers of people. Dioceses have established commissions and organised various kinds of programmes. At times, these have involved nation-wide consultations with laity, political figures, economists, social scientists etc., on issues such as the distribution of wealth in the nation or the topic of women in the Church and society. It seems that bishops have been more active in this field than many priests, so that it has yet to become a reality in many parishes. Since there are political implications in taking a stance on many justice issues, members of the laity are often reluctant to commit themselves. However, an increasing number of people are beginning to see that the Church cannot remain silent on clear cases of social injustice. The claim is still sometimes heard that the Church should not interfere in politics.

Action on behalf of Social Justice

34. In Oceania, the Church has been quite conscious of her mission to transform society by the power of the Gospel. Bishops have been effective in speaking against racism, prejudice, violence, etc., and the violation of human rights, nationally and internationally. The Church, through her social service agencies, has been directly involved in remedying injustices and restoring dignity to the victims of oppression. The Church maintains ministries to mental-health institutions, prisons, those who are economically and psychologically deprived as well as those most in need. Most of the missionary dioceses want the Church's social teaching included in the catechetical curriculum. In many places, this is already a reality. A number of responses mentioned that the Church's official documents on justice and peace are not written in language readily accessible and intelligible to laity. This seems to be a large part of the reason for this teaching being "the Church's best-kept secret."

Bishops faced with complicated social justice issues are calling for the establishment of specialised research institutes to serve as a resource for Church leaders in making their submissions to governments. They wish to speak more forcefully on behalf of the marginalised and downtrodden in society. More scientific information about the economics of banking and commerce, as well as about the social and political philosophies that support them, is also required, so that through interdisciplinary study, moral theology can exercise a determinant role in the social and economic sciences. A number of bishops want to see liberal capitalism discussed at the Special Assembly because it is the predominant social philosophy at the moment with profound effects on the common good, e.g., on economics, the distribution of wealth and work, the spread of structural unemployment and the loss of job security. Free trade policies and some of the activities of multi-national companies are a concern for small, vulnerable nations. Some responses mentioned the corruption among politicians and civil servants is a serious barrier to economic, social and political advancement in the area. "Economic rationalism" also was the object of attention, because it is justifying cut backs in welfare to the poor and in health and educational systems, resulting in a widening of the gap between rich and poor in developed countries.

In some cases, such as Papua-New Guinea, the Church's social justice apostolate and services, e.g., schools, are so dependent on government financing that she often is not truly free to follow her own policies. A suggestion was made that in the future it might be wise to investigate ways to finance her own activities, so as to achieve greater autonomy and witness. The responses also indicated that the following topics should be discussed at the Special Assembly: the rights of indigenous cultures, structural unemployment on the national and international level, globalisation and the influence of the economic down-turn in Asia on the small nations of the Pacific, land rights and the reconciliation process for the Australian Aborigines and Torres Straight Islanders, bi-culturalism and the position of Maoris in New Zealand, the rights and protection of refugees and asylum seekers, the right to migrate and seek work in another country when that is necessary, the rights of small nations as regards dumping nuclear and other waste and the right to form unions and strike when necessary. The threat that nuclear testing in Asia could start an arms race is a worry to the nations of Oceania.

A number of responses observed that Australia, by necessity, and New Zealand, to a lesser extent, have to pay great attention to their Asian neighbours because of financial, economic and political ties. As regards ecology, the major concern seems to be the economic exploitation of the resources of the forests and seas by international companies. The tragic situation in Bougainville appeared in most responses as a serious issue for the Synod's attention. The problems of East Timor was also mentioned. The "hidden but smiling face of poverty" in areas of Oceania also drew comment from a number of bishops, who were very conscious of this problem. Most of the responses from the missionary bishops emphasised a certain sense of powerlessness in international affairs, because small nations are simply expected to comply with the policies of the great powers. Some felt that smaller nations are often discriminated against in trade and financial arrangements among nations. It was felt that more awareness of their situation, on the part of Australia and New Zealand, would help foster peace, stability and development in all of Oceania, so that the Pacific may truly become the "ocean of peace". All the bishops hope that by finding greater communion among themselves at the Synod they will also foster a lasting solidarity and peace within their nations and among all people of good will on earth.


PART III

LIVING THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST

 

New Life in Christ

35. The Christian message is not simply a set of teachings but a dynamic relationship with the person of Jesus Christ, died and risen. Evangelisation depends for much of its success on how God's People come to recognise Jesus so that they can respond to the ongoing call to experience the fullness of life in Him through the participation in the communion of His Church, His Body. The sacraments, especially the Eucharist, celebrate and deepen the new life in Christ begun in Baptism. In virtue of Redemption in Christ, the whole of human existence has the potential of being transformed through a profound conversion of heart. Jesus came that all might have life and have it to the full (cf. Jn 10:10). He declared Himself to be the Way to be followed, the Truth to be believed and the Life to be experienced in all its fullness (cf. Jn 14:6). The announcement of the mystery of Jesus Christ is aimed at achieving a personal encounter with Him.

A Personal Encounter with Christ

36. The genuine Christian is one who is actively caught up into the experience of a loving relationship with God the Father through the 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 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 to all the world.

 

CHAPTER I

SACRAMENTS

 

Renewal and Vatican Council II

37. Vatican II, in its process of renewal, caused a new awareness and understanding of the Church and her identity, which was expressed in various images: Light of the Nations, The New People of God, and a Pilgrim People led by Christ, the Good Shepherd, to its eternal home in heaven. Among the many images of the Church found in the Council, it was that of the People of God which found a ready and enthusiastic welcome among the faithful, baptised into the life of Christ. This New People of God is missionary by nature and called to holiness and service in virtue of Baptism. This image, so readily received, reflected the warmth and intimacy of the family and was instrumental in fostering the greater participation of all the baptised, especially the laity.

Many responses mention that the Council was received enthusiastically and positively in Oceania. Many benefits were experienced in the sacramental and apostolic life of the Church. For a number of the young Churches, the Second Vatican Council virtually coincided with their initial growth and development. For others, it was the basis of renewal and change which resulted in a genuine sense of being Church, of active participation of the laity in its life and of a new sense of mission and responsibility. This was seen as a valuable manifestation of the life of the Spirit in the Church.

Since renewal is an ongoing process, the task of understanding and integrating the teachings of the Council continues. While expressions of the Church's identity as the People of God, missionary by nature and called to service by Baptism, are now part of everyday vocabulary, the challenge remains of putting these realities into effect. The People of God is still developing and growing in the faith as it comes to a deeper understanding of the implications the Council has for the Church and her future.

At the same time, dramatic and far-reaching changes were taking place in society, which were to have significant effects on attitudes towards the Church and how others' understood her, especially in those countries having a predominantly Western culture or subject to its ever-growing influence. Secularisation, a decline in the sense of the sacred and a search for new substitute-forms of salvation, have all contributed to distorted ideas of the Church.

At times, there was confusion concerning the changes that came about as a result of the Council; some found it difficult to understand the sense of renewal and consequent change, while others were confused by various interpretations that, at times, led to a lack of tolerance. Some of the changes were introduced with little preparation of the people. In some cases, greater lay participation has led to a confusion of roles and to expectations that do not correspond to or conform with Church teaching or discipline. In some areas, the number of practicing Catholics has declined and there has been a general weakening of the Catholic identity.

The responses to the Lineamenta highlighted a desire and a determination to reflect upon and study again the teachings contained in the documents of the Second Vatican Council so as to rediscover their many riches. In an age in which people assimilate information and ideas in images, some find these documents difficult to read. Much still needs to be done, and educational opportunities provided, to help all understand the genuine teaching of the Council. Through a deepened spirituality, a commitment to the teaching Church's, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the support of the community, the Church, in faithfulness to her mission to announce the Gospel, continues to proclaim the eternal truth–salvation comes through Christ alone, there is "no other name" (Acts 4:12).

Liturgical Reform

38. The greater involvement of the People of God in the Church's liturgical life is one of the fruits of the Council which has led to a greater sense of responsibility for her mission. In its reform of the liturgical life, the Council wished to impart an ever-increasing vigour to the Christian life of the faithful. Much has been positively achieved through the process of renewal begun at the Council. The more meaningful participation of the people in the sacramental life of the Church renewed a sense of ownership on the part of the whole community. The development of a lay ministry created a tangible and visible sign of the common priesthood of all the faithful, in which all participate according to a person's state.

On the other hand, the liturgical renewal has lead some to difficulty, especially those who were steeped in the traditions found prior to the Second Vatican Council. Often they failed to grasp the meaning behind the call to renewal. Frequently, changes and renewal were introduced without adequate preparation, instruction and explanation and, at times, with deliberate misinterpretation. Where changes are brought about, adequate theological explanation is required so that the people are able to appreciate and become accustomed to legitimate innovation.

The Council saw the renewal of the liturgy as a process of deepening and understanding the mystery contained in its rites. It sought to preserve and foster them, and, where necessary, the rites were to be carefully revised in the light of sound tradition, so that they be given new vigour to meet present-day circumstances and needs. In this matter, many local Churches in Oceania have devoted their efforts in the past and continue to reflect on the inculturation of the liturgy. In the light of the essential symbols and actions of the liturgy, they diligently discern how traditional rituals, e.g. cleansing, offering, reconciliation etc., can be introduced and blended into the liturgical life according to the liturgical norms of the Church. Many insist that liturgical reform is an important process in the expression of the new life in Christ offered to the Christian community in the celebration of the sacraments.

Life through the Sacraments

39. Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist are the Sacraments of Christian Initiation. They ground the common vocation of all Christ's disciples, a vocation to holiness and to the mission of evangelising the world. They confer the graces needed for life according to the Spirit, during this life as pilgrims on the march towards the heavenly homeland. Baptism celebrated within Mass, in the presence of the believing community, reflects that the sacraments are her acts, not only for the sanctification of the individual but also for the upbuilding of the community of the Body of Christ.

In this regard, the responses relate that the Rite for the Christian Initiation of Adults (R.C.I.A.) has been beneficial and positive in this process. On the other hand, there have been abuses and irregular practices, often the result of an inadequate understanding of the sacraments. Thus, infants are not readily brought to baptism under the mistaken idea of leaving the choice of religion to the child when older. Along the same lines, Confirmation, in which the gifts of the Spirit are sacramentally received, can often mark the regrettable moment when many young Catholics cease active contact with the Church and her sacramental life. The particular Churches of Oceania realise that the various courses of preparation for the Sacraments of Initiation are graced opportunities for effective evangelisation, not only for those who are to receive the sacrament but also for families and the community.

The Eucharist completes Christian initiation and is the source and summit of the Christian life, where Christ is present in His word, in the person of the priest, in the worshiping community of the faithful 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. From the beginning, the Church has been faithful to the Lord's command, "Do this in remembrance of me" (1 Cor 11: 24).

In a rapidly developing and changing society, new and varied pressures are experienced that are having adverse effects on the living out of this command. Thus, various responses mention that the particular and sacred character of Sunday, the Day of the Lord in which the Catholic community gathers for the Eucharist, is increasingly undermined by a mistaken understanding about the Sunday obligation. In addition, the introduction of secular activities, Sunday trading, sporting and entertainment events, have tended to erode the realisation of Sunday as a privileged moment for the community to celebrate its life and gain strength from the Eucharist. In some situations communion services, the result of a shortage of clergy, have brought about confusion in the understanding of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sunday obligation. At times, even the Church building is not always seen as a sacred place of worship in which the silence of prayer is experienced and in which God is met and communicates himself. In many respects, it was presumed that once the Mass was in the vernacular its inner mysteries would become self-evident and, therefore, catechesis concerning the Eucharist was often discontinued. Widespread lack of knowledge has occasionally resulted, and Catholics, at times, have erroneous views or a insufficient understanding of the Eucharist. In recognising these challenges, the particular Churches of Oceania proclaim the centrality of the Eucharist to the Church's life.

Concerning the Sacrament of Penance, many, especially in developed societies marked by a diminishing sense of sin and an exaggerated sense of liberty and freedom, mentioned that the celebration of the sacrament is witnessing a noticeable decline. Frequently, there are also mistaken notions concerning the need to confess to a priest or concerning the concept of grave sin. Others fail to understand the particular graces given in this sacrament which has its beneficial effects both on the individual as well as the community of faith. Many responses noted how sad it is that this privileged sacrament remains irrelevant for many. It is true that at special moments, especially at Easter and Christmas, there is a noticeable increase in the participation of the sacrament and the wide use of the Second Rite, i.e., a communal penance service with individual confession and absolution. A number of responses raised the question of the Third Rite of Reconciliation, i.e, a communal penance service with general confession and absolution. At the same time, many felt that continued catechesis is required and renewed efforts need to be made to help God's People understand that the Sacrament of Penance offers the salvific grace of forgiveness, which both confronts and overcomes sin in the individual.

Christ's preferential love for the sick is reflected in the special attention Christians have towards all those who suffer in body and in spirit. The renewed Sacrament of the Sick has been a positive contribution to the life of those members of the community who find themselves in life-threatening situations, e.g. serious illness, operations, and the elderly. The community celebrations of this sacrament are of great help and consolation to the sick and a source of hope for those who accompany them.

Marriage, in which two people give and accept each other in a definitive bond of mutual love, reflects the love of Christ for His Church. The Sacrament of Marriage, especially celebrated within the Nuptial Mass mirrors this love of Christ for His Church in the mystery of His love in the Eucharist. This is a moment of grace in which genuine and long lasting evangelisation can take place.

 

CHAPTER II

HUMAN LIFE AND HEALTH

 

God's Gift of Life

40. 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). Human life is sacred because from its beginning involves the creative action of God and remains forever in a special relation to the Creator. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end. The covenant between God and humanity is interwoven with reminders of God's gift of life. Persons are the stewards of the gift of life from God. Humanity is created in God's image and called to perfection and eternal life through communion with God in Christ through the Church. Christian morality is therefore a life-centred morality. It demands reaching out beyond oneself to others. In preserving and enhancing the lives of others, persons enrich and sanctify their own lives. All share in the divine mystery of continuing creation, of giving life and exercising stewardship over God's gift of life. Thus, the moral law is not a restriction or a restraint but rather a protection against destruction and "non-life" and, at the same time, points to and directs people to genuine and life-giving fulfillment.

To be true to the Gospels, the Church in her various communities, must value this gift of life. Individuals and whole communities must work against the violence that threatens life and work to ensure that the means necessary to preserve and enhance life are available to all.

Cultural Attitudes towards Life

41. In Oceania, marked by a vast cultural diversity, peoples who have maintained their indigenous culture continue to value human life. They have an awareness of the sacredness and dignity of every human life. They easily see God as life in its fullness, shared with them through the ancestors in the community. Indeed, to live in the community is to share and appreciate life and to bring it to its fullness.

The extended family plays a vital role in instilling a sense of community and a sense of sharing and giving towards others: the old, the disabled, widows, orphans, etc.. Morality is lived in community and individual responsibility is assumed in light of the community and its values. Freedom is also understood in relation to the community, in its flourishing and its diminishment.

Even though the value of life is seen to be lived in the community and is based on traditional values, there are areas in which much still needs to be done to promote those values which enhance life. In some societies, the sense of community is in decline, resulting in negative consequences. In certain societies, some lives seem to be more valuable than others, especially where enemies can be killed in a gruesome fashion, where tribalism leads to fights, where a belief in witchcraft diminishes the value of life and the person, or where rape occurs and property is destroyed. In other societies, there is a serious problem with suicide.

Under the influence of growing materialism, especially a result of Western consumer approaches to life, a number of traditional and life-giving values are being eroded. This is especially true among the young, who are often susceptible to these changes and absorb them with greater ease. Thus, their attitudes to life, especially to sexual mores, are changing under this negative influence.

The approach to life and its understanding in the technologically- advanced societies is markedly different. While certain aspects of life are in general enhanced, e.g., beauty, sport, good health, etc., life in the consumer societies is easily reduced to its purely biological reality, which in many ways is also easily manipulated. In this ethos, what is technologically possible is frequently considered as permissible. The "technological imperative" is translated into "what can be done, should be done". Some scientists have claimed that no moral limits should be put on research and experimentation. Underlying this approach is a claim to absolute freedom. Any implied moral claim in this area is based on a type of utilitarianism which is calculated on the basis of the greatest good or the greatest number. There is no reference to the value and wonder of human life as destined by God's creative design, resulting in the abandoning of those moral imperatives that enhance this design. There is little reference to the mystery of birth and death. God's presence as the Lord of creation, personally present to each individual, is overlooked. The human person becomes yet another material entity, manipulated at will for material, and frequently selfish, ends.

The particular Churches in Oceania struggle courageously to bring the message of life to their peoples. At times, especially in the technologically- advanced and materialistic-dependent societies, their voice seems to be that of the Baptist, crying in a wilderness of moral apathy or indifference. Church members are becoming more aware that commitment to Christ and His Gospel goes hand- in-hand with the value of life. They increasingly expect the Church to remain steadfast in her protection and encouragement of the value of life in society. The Church is particularly challenged to provide youth with knowledge, skills and motivation in their choice for life.

Moral Issues

42. Modern society in its social planning and legislative programmes is increasingly determined to apply technology and the findings of science to as many areas of life as possible. The responses were unanimous in highlighting that respect for human life in all its phases and stages is one of the greatest challenges in contemporary society. In this context, the Church has taken up the challenge to find effective means of making her moral message heard and applied by governments, ministries, scientists and society- at-large. Various Church groups make representations to legislators to assist them to make morally-correct decisions. The Church regularly monitors any proposed new legislation and its potential implications for the sanctity of human life. In some cases, the Church and State work together on various projects that enhance life. Parish liturgies regularly include prayers for those victims of life-threatening actions. Teaching programmes in Catholic schools are committed to inculcating the value of life, especially in the young.

Responses indicate that bishops' conferences and individual bishops, especially in pastoral letters, have spoken on life issues, have made submissions to governments and have striven, at times courageously, to propagate the Church's teaching in the media. In this way they proclaim the dignity and the eternal destiny of each person. The Church community supports the initiatives of dioceses in raising the consciousness of others regarding the sacredness and dignity of human life.

Further education is required so that people can come to understand the Church's commitment to life and realise the essential issues at stake. Additional education and formation for Catholics is needed, since many either do not know or do not understand the richness of the Church's life- giving teaching. The resources of Catholic universities, other tertiary institutes and Catholic schools can contribute much to this task.

The Church must teach the truth that gives life and must do it in a way that touches the hearts and minds of people. The media remains an important means for explaining and proposing the Church's teaching in a positive way, especially in areas in which media attention on Catholic teaching in moral areas is frequently negative and rarely informed.

Responses indicated that the sacredness of human life and the right to life from the first moment of conception until natural death have been taught and defended. 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. All types of procured abortion have been condemned as a truly horrendous crime afflicting society.

Many positive signs exist in Oceania of Church members helping the community to understand the Church's teaching on these issues and also of offering practical help in the following ways: pregnancy assistance, post- abortion help, natural family planning groups, pro-life groups and other groups strongly committed to pro-life issues.

At the same time, for many people, including a noticeable number of Catholics, the teaching of the Church in some areas is not fully grasped or understood, or is even seen as negative. Many Catholics are seduced by the prevailing morality, that promotes an unlimited freedom, and are easily influenced by the culture of death, that surrounds them.

The Church strongly condemns abortion. Catholics and many others accept that it is an evil destructive of society. The bishops have objected to the willful 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. Some dioceses have bio-ethics centres that provide an important resource for the teaching of Catholic moral values in medical practice and for offering information and guidance on issues of bio-ethics. This is a highly complex area that requires the Church to carefully explain her teaching in an effective manner.

On the other hand, a number of answers to the Lineamenta underline that much still needs to be done to explain the richness of the Church's teaching on contraception, an area of moral life in which noticeable numbers in the Church generally share the prevailing view of society. There is tremendous pressure on young people in this area, and the ready availability of contraceptives has added to the difficulties. In addition, political policies concerning population control have contributed to the problem. It is important that the Church's members properly understand the teaching on life as contained in Humanae vitae. A serious and renewed study of this encyclical will help to revitalise its truths and contribute to the sacredness of life.

Reference in the responses was also made to those whose lives are diminished or weakened, and therefore deserving of special care and respect. Sick and handicapped persons should be helped to lead as normal lives as possible. Whatever its motives or means, euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of the disabled, sick or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable and is another area that attacks the sacredness of human life.

Though there have been very strong moves to have euthanasia legalised, the Church has been very active in lobbying legislators to prevent this. It has met with considerable success in many situations and has found common ground and support with other Christian and non-Christian communities.

The care of the psychiatrically ill, while not new, is another area requiring Church concern. Frequently more and more psychiatrically ill people are not always adequately cared for. Education of Church members on how to respond to the psychiatrically ill in their midst, and how to become advocates for a better response as a society, is seen as a most effective way of promoting a culture of life.

The Church's Witness to Life

43. The Church, facing the many faceted aspects of the practice of medicine in hospitals today, has exercised a leadership role in raising the consciousness of those involved in health care regarding the sacredness and dignity of every human life. Ethics' committees, counselling centres, educational programmes and other social services have been established. The Catholic Hospital System contributes much to the Church's witness to life in her pastoral and profoundly Christian and life-centred approach to health care problems in the community. Catholic health care is compassionate, respectful, competent and professional, placing the human person at the centre of its concerns. It seeks to give expression to Gospel values. The pastoral care of those who are ill has received great inspiration from the celebration of the Sacrament of the Sick. Many particular Churches provide a considerable array of services for others in society, such as: care for the aged, palliative care facilities for the terminally ill, social service agencies, all of which give particular witness to the value of life and demonstrate that understanding and compassion directed to healing the physical and spiritual wounds of a broken humanity.

The Church has encouraged doctors, nurses and everyone of good will to organise in defence of the right to life. Unfortunately, certain legislators, persons in the judiciary and regrettably even some Catholics give in to the pressures of society in seeking legal respectability for actions which are morally indefensible. Individuals and groups speak out strongly and courageously against such issues as euthanasia, abortion and domestic violence. Individual Christians are also encouraged to make representations to responsible authorities on such issues. Participation at the parish level involves political representations on matters that impinge on the Church's responsibility as steward of the gift of life. The Church's documents expressing this responsibility are readily made available and publicised. Parish liturgies include prayers for those who may be victims. Teaching programmes and pastoral care processes in Catholic schools and other institutions alert all to the importance of these questions and their relationship to life. In so doing, the Catholic community has a part in helping legislators make morally-correct decisions and makes a contribution to informing the wider community. Catholic politicians, who are at the forefront of ensuring that Christian values remain reflected in legislation, deserve encouragement and support from the Catholic community.

Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae has treated all these issues within the framework of Scripture and the tradition of the Church's moral teaching. The Church today is faced with the challenge of providing for her people and for society the knowledge, skills and motivation for better and genuine choices in the moral field.

 

CHAPTER III

MARRIAGE AND FAMILY

 

The Impact of Culture

44. The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realisation of ecclesial communion, and for this reason it is called a domestic church. The family is the first unit of society whose mission is to be "the sanctuary of life". In a society which is in rapid transition and whose effects are felt in the Church, marriage and the family are experiencing profound changes and is often subject to many negative pressures. Marriage and the family are probably the two institutions which have felt the greatest impact of social change, especially in advanced technological societies like Australia and New Zealand.

The prevailing and underlying philosophy–that happiness comes from unlimited freedom rather than from commitment–has had serious negative effects on marriage and the family. The consumer mentality undermines their stability. Christ and His plan for the world are seen as merely one option among many, rather than the Way, the Truth and the Life. Many interrelated factors are contributing to this radical fragmentation.

In the indigenous cultures, in which community-centred and extended family values are treasured, family and marriage experience greater support than in typically Western societies. Some of these societies have inherited practices, e.g. the practice of "bride price" (the fact that a marriage must be fertile before it is socially recognised), the subservience of women and other customary practices, which, especially as a result of the influence of travel, increased wealth and consumer philosophies, have experienced significant changes. Consequently, marriage and the family have experienced difficulties and confusion.

Traditional customs concerning marriage and the family have always offered challenges to the Church as she strives to present the Christian view of marriage and family life. Recent influences and growing materialism have often corrupted the meaning of these customs and have further confused the meaning of marriage and the family. The community, which has always had an enormous influence on marriage and the family, is also facing change and threats with a consequent effect on these institutions.

The Marriage Bond

45. Marriage is that special covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership for their whole life and a sharing at 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. Marriage is a moment of grace.

This message is being constantly preached by the bishops and the Church in Oceania. Because of the richness of this sacrament, bishops have encouraged, and often required, couples to participate in marriage preparation courses in which the truths and realties of the Sacrament of Marriage are presented and developed. These courses, particularly important for the potential married life, need to offer a solid spirituality of marriage based on a well-grounded theology of the sacrament. They need to relate to the special and particular situations in which couples now find themselves and take into account the culture from which many couples come. In the particular Churches of Oceania, marriage preparation is receiving much attention and focus in the pastoral plans of dioceses and parishes.

A particular theme that emerges from the responses to the Lineamenta is the need to teach clearly the vocation and sacramentality of marriage. In many local Churches there are various programmes and movements of marriage enrichment. The Church must support and constantly affirm marriages and the family throughout their journey, especially through ongoing marriage education often expressed in the following ways: marriage encounter, courses for endangered marriages, celebrations at the parish level for marriage anniversaries, developing friendships and support among families, deepening an understanding of fatherhood, utilising Catholic social services for counseling and therapy, other movements directed to supporting and encouraging the Sacrament of Marriage, etc..

In this context, ministry to widows and orphans is also important. The Family Life Office of the local Church can often assist parishes in their ministry to families, thereby also helping to reclaim for the Church those families which have become or feel marginalised. Catholic tertiary institutes and Catholic schools are also an important means of focusing on family and marriage issues in a society in which marriage is under threat.

Despite these efforts, an increasing number of marriages end in failure with tragic consequences for the family and society as a whole. The divorce- rate in certain societies of Oceania is very high. Many couples want to be married in Church but have lost regular contact with the parish community and fail to understand the sacramental nature of marriage. The idea of a life- long commitment and permanence is rarely seen in society as a value, thereby having a negative effect on the marriage bond. Couples are often immature, unprepared for the responsibilities of rearing and educating children, faced with financial difficulties and generally affected and influenced by the permissive society in which they live.

The pastoral effects of the breakdown of marriage are experienced in local communities. Defections from the faith as a result of divorce and re- marriage is a particular problem. In more traditional indigenous societies, certain customs are now undergoing change with consequent difficulties for the married life and the sacramental participation of the Church's members. Many insist that the Church must continue to explain better the Sacrament of Marriage, emphasise the importance of a shared spiritual life and prayer, and present her teachings in such a way that marriage and the family become instruments of sanctification for parents, children, the Church community and society.

Frequently, in the case 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 widely known and discussed in the community. Not everyone automatically avails themselves of this possibility; there is often a misunderstanding of the process involved. At times, it appears to some to be intimidating, expensive, time-consuming and even lacking credibility. More needs to be done to explain the annulment process so that it can be clearly understood, especially by those who are faced with the tragedy of marriage break-down.

In addition, parish priests and others involved in pastoral work are often faced with a variety of matrimonial situations in which compassion combined with the need to affirm the Church's teaching on marriage and its value are required. In this difficult and painful process, priests and others can be instruments of peace and reconciliation in the midst of pain. They courageously witness to the sanctity of marriage.

The divorced and separated have a special place in the care of the Church and much is still required to help them become reintegrated into and feel part of her life, all-the-while maintaining the Church's authentic teaching.

The Family

46. Responses reveal that the extended family is a reality and ideal that has all but disappeared; even the nuclear family unit is showing signs of weakness. There are endless pressures on and challenges facing the family in an age of moral relativism. Social policies often do not support the family unit and economic pressures cause additional difficulties. Men are often expected to put their job or career first, and women also frequently have a full-time employment. There is a ready acceptance of de facto relationships and the media advocates extra-marital relationships as an alternative to the ideal of the Christian family.

The impermanence of marriage and family institutions is one of the serious negative aspects in some parts of contemporary Oceania. Many couples live together before marriage and a considerable number of children are born outside of marriage with often adverse consequences for them as they oftentimes have no sense of personal identity and feel isolated and rejected.

The Church continues to uphold the sanctity of marriage and the value of family life through her educational and pastoral institutions and programmes. The family must be presented as a way of life, as an essential part of the Church's identity. Help must be readily and generously given to those who are working diligently at family life. The stability of the family is intimately connected with faith. An ongoing approach to marriage and family education provides the opportunity for faith development, that is enriched by and enriches the family and its individual members. The integration of faith and life provides the basis for the development of a family spirituality, that has the potential for strengthening family life and eventually influencing the rest of society. Catholics need to be fully aware of the Church's teaching on marriage and the family in all its varied aspects, so that the family can become an instrument of sanctification for parents and children.

Youth

47. Youth are the future and hope of the Church. They play a vital role in the life and mission of the Church and deserve every encouragement and possibility to discover and deepen their Christian vocation. They are filled with a desire to create a better, more just and loving world, in spite of the dangers to which they are exposed, e.g. drugs, societal pressures, secularism, consumerism, etc.. They often enter relationships within a culture which has so privatised religion that it is not seen as a major factor in their style of life. The sexual mores of youth seem to be heavily influenced by the pervading and prevailing culture, and in many societies in Oceania pre-marital sex among the young is finding wider acceptance and is being practiced without restraint. Significant numbers of youth are being deprived of a good experience of family life.

The Church is particularly challenged in providing her young people with knowledge, skills and motivation in their choice for life so that Christ might become the centre and source of their desire to develop a better world. In a special way, the Church is striving to offer youth the treasures of her wisdom concerning the life-giving values of marriage and the blessings of family life. Many responses to the Lineamenta highlighted the need for the Church to challenge youth in their basic and fundamental choices for life in the context of marriage and the family. The energy and hope possessed by youth must be encouraged and channeled so that they become witnesses to the presence of Christ among their peers and to the rest of the world.

 

CHAPTER IV

VOCATIONS AND CHARISMS

 

The Priesthood

48. The Church is a priestly people. Through Baptism all the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ, the common priesthood of the faithful. Based on this common priesthood and ordered to its service, there exists another participation in the mission of Christ, the ministry conferred by the Sacrament of Holy Orders, where the task is to serve in the name and in the person of Christ the Head in the midst of the community. In a particular and unique way, the vocation to the priesthood is essential to the life of the Church and her ongoing enrichment, especially in her sacramental life. The Priest is "another Christ" as he preaches the word and administers the sacraments that give life to those living the life of Jesus Christ. His is a life of availability and total self-giving, a wholehearted response to a genuine call from God.

In some particular Churches in Oceania, i.e., in Papua-New Guinea and some Pacific Islands, God continues to bless His people with numerous vocations. Many persons are interested in the priestly and religious life. At the same time, discernment in the matter is still required and occasional difficulties arise associated with local cultures and the varied perceptions of the role of the priest. At times, spirituality and deep prayer life are lacking. Sometimes, due to their lifestyle or involvement in politics, clergy do not live up to what is expected of them by local communities. Sometimes, young vocations find it difficult to persevere. With patience and creativity these problems can be overcome so that the blessing of these enthusiastic vocations can contribute to the life of the local Churches.

In other societies in Oceania, vocations are declining to the extent that serious difficulties are foreseen for the future. Thus a good number of smaller communities no longer have a resident priest with the consequent threat of a loss of a Eucharistic centre to the community. To meet the lack of priests, dioceses have had to plan for the future, resulting in the positive participation of lay people in the various ministries of the parish. A problem arises with the number of aging priests; rural communities are suffering particular difficulties, given distances and the scattered local communities.

The role of the priest has changed markedly since the Second Vatican Council, adding to a problem of the priest's self-perception and an appreciation of his special and unique vocation. Scandals involving the clergy have had a negative impact on the image of the priest, and thereby on vocations, augmenting a problem of morale among priests and the perception of the priest in the Church and in society in general. In particular cases, sexual abuse on the part of the clergy has led to special pain and suffering for the community. Great care and sensitivity is demanded in the process of healing accompanying this sad reality. Despite these difficulties, however, the continued presence and apostolic work of countless priests, faithful to their vocation, continues to be a particular and ongoing blessing for the local Churches in Oceania.

To help meet the lack of vocations, various Churches in Oceania sponsor vocations programmes that involve prayer, reflection and discussion. Secondary schools are a potentially important means of fostering awareness of a priestly vocation. Clergy up-dating programs have helped in making priests aware of their special vocation and their responsibilities in the life of the Church.

The permanent diaconate has been introduced in various dioceses to help in a variety of areas, such as liturgy, catechesis, administration and other pastoral initiatives. A creative response is required in all of Oceania to find ways of promoting vocations. However, it is important in this matter to underline the clear distinction between the ministerial priesthood and that of the laity.

Proper formation is vital to the future life and ministry of priests. Seminarians need to discern and develop a greater spiritual and emotional maturity. They need to be trained within the community they are to serve and be filled with an urgency about the Kingdom that will sustain them in the midst of their ministerial tasks and responsibilities. In this context, serious ongoing formation to celibacy is required. After the seminary years, priests should be able and willing to explain what it means for them to be a priest. In some particular Churches, pre-seminary houses have been opened to help in the discernment, the initial formation and education of potential candidates.

Some answers to the Lineamenta noted the difficulty of providing adequately trained staff members in the various areas of formation: spiritual, human, pastoral and intellectual. In areas where a great number of vocations exist, this lack of trained personnel is compounded by the need for new structures and facilities in the seminaries. Training in other countries has resulted in many benefits, though at times difficulties have been encountered because of differing cultures.

The Lay Vocation

49. The reality of "being called" is an intimate experience of all of Christ's faithful. Each vocation is a response to a way of life, chosen to live out the call to holiness that belongs by virtue of Baptism to all the Church's members. All Christ's faithful need to appreciate and understand their call to holiness and evangelisation. Since the Second Vatican Council, the role of the laity in the life of the Church has developed and expanded to the point that they rightly see themselves as an integral part of the Church. Their contribution as collaborators in parishes, members of pastoral councils, financial and legal advisers, and catechists and pastoral agents is welcome. They are discovering the implications of what it means to live the life of Christ in the local community of the Church. Given the shortage of priestly vocations in some areas of Oceania, they have taken on a particular responsibility in a more active and constructive participation, especially in the parish. They undertake catechetical instruction, are involved in sacramental preparation, are responsible for youth work and general pastoral activities, and are sometimes called upon, under special circumstances and according to their position in the Church community, to lead services in parishes without ordained ministers.

Lay people need preparation and education to assume and develop these differing responsibilities. Many lay people are now studying theology. Catholic education centres offer courses in theology, religious education, pastoral ministry, etc., which assist the laity in the realisation of their particular vocation in the Church's work of evangelisation in Oceania. In a world that has lost many values and is in need of truth, they are living witnesses to the values and truths of the Gospel in their various professions. In a particular way, the laity's commitment in marriage and the family is a special vocation of Christ's love.

In many societies of Oceania, the missionary spirit and endeavour originally depended for much of their practical effectiveness on the role of dedicated catechists who, in response to the Gospel, acted as the intermediaries between the missionary and the local people. These catechists became an institution in their own right, in their task of organising and leading various scattered communities in duties not reserved to the priest. They have contributed greatly to the planting and flowering of the Gospel. Their role, though changing in various particular Churches, is still of vital importance for the work of evangelisation. They witness in a special manner to the many gifts that the Spirit gives the Church.

A number of these gifts and charisms are evident in various ways in the local Churches in Oceania. In collaboration with the local bishop, each of these gifts have, in their own way, given new strength and enthusiasm to the preaching of the Gospel. There are groups of charismatic renewal, houses of prayer, Christian life groups, Christian meditation groups, and other institutions formally recognised by the Church.

The role of women in many parts of Oceania has received particular attention since the Second Vatican Council. The Church has sought to promote the rightful role of women in society and in the Church by recognising their particular contribution to the apostolate and by involving them in various activities within the Church. Continued sensitivity to their role is required as they enrich the Church with their special gifts. Care is needed with the use of language and, where it is possible, well-qualified women need to be called upon in service of the Church. In a number of indigenous communities women are now involved in many of the Church's apostolic works. However, in some instances there are cultural difficulties which prevent them from being fully accepted, despite their vital contribution. They will only fully participate and be recognised in the Church once certain aspects of society begin to change.

Catholic education, along with its associated fields, is an important aspect of the Church's life in Oceania. The Catholic schools are a special resource of the Church providing education for the young and teaching and inculcating those Christian values so admirably set forth in the Gospels. They provide structured programmes of faith-education for children and young adults and often a meaningful and enriching experience of liturgy. Indeed, in some societies they often provide the only link with the Church, a real experience of faith, as well as offering a service to the community and the nation. The schools play a vital role in the faith education of the young and with the diminishing number of religious involved in this type of apostolate, lay people are increasingly responsible for the running of schools. The vocation of the Catholic teacher is a special one and should be encouraged as a genuine means of both living out and preaching the Gospel.

Catholic universities and Catholic tertiary institutes also have an important role to play in Oceania. Through their expertise in the faith and their various structures, they are a means of dialogue with a secularised world. Their contribution to the life of the Church at the local level is significant. The faculties of theology offer an added richness to the Church, in her role of educating persons in the faith and in the training of seminarians. The Catholic University has a particular institutional role in the Church, meaning that it cannot be independent of episcopal authority.

Men and Women Religious and Consecrated Persons

50. 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 her doctrine and the example 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 its many cultures.

To make the Christian message come alive for Christians in their daily life is probably the greatest challenge facing the Church on the threshold of the Third Millennium. Sometimes, the celebration of the sacraments need better to convey a "sense of God", i.e., a witness to the fact that He is intimately encountered in the silence of contemplative prayer. At times, 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.

The yearning for a spiritual life is witnessed to and fulfilled, in a special and unique way, in the consecrated life through which Christ's faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves wholly to God who is love and to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come by pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom. Contemplative orders, a number of which are present in Oceania, attest in a special way to God's transcendence, witnessing to the intimacy of communion between the person and God. Their presence in the particular Churches in Oceania is highly valued and of great importance.

In light of the Second Vatican Council, the congregations engaged in various apostolic activity went through a profound process of aggiornamento. This has often meant a radical change in their apostolic activity, in their community and prayer life and in a renewed witness to their original charisms. Many religious congregations are presently facing the challenge of decreasing numbers and aging members. Religious have largely disappeared from a number of Catholic institutions, leaving these institutions without that unique witness to the radical demands of the Kingdom that religious traditionally provided. In the more secularised areas of Oceania, vocations to the religious life have seen a dramatic decline. In other areas, such as Papua-New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, a steady number of religious vocations is present to serve the local Church. In fact, in some areas, local religious congregations have been founded.

Religious congregations in some western-type societies are finding it difficult to combat the prevailing value systems. This is manifested in the following ways: the value of the vow of chastity is often questioned and there are difficulties with it being lived out; the abandonment of traditional apostolates has not always been easy or readily appreciated; new lifestyles have been confusing; youth do not seem to be readily challenged by the radical character of the consecrated life; at times, prayer life suffers at the expense of active life, etc..

At the same time, some religious have shown a great sense of spiritual discernment in a secular society by undertaking new apostolates, e.g. care of AIDS patients, apostolates to society's homeless and troubled youth, and a choice to serve the poorest in society. The Church in Oceania appreciates the selfless work of women religious, particularly those who, in many cases, originally sowed the seeds of faith and were intimately involved in their development. The fruits of their apostolate continue to enrich the Church. The consecrated life, when genuinely lived, is a powerful sign of dedication to the Kingdom through the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and serves as a specific gift to the Church and a witness to the Gospel.

 

CHAPTER V

THE MINISTRY OF COMMUNION

 

Some Structures Fostering Communion

51. The theological reality of communio is central to the thinking of the local Church. The Church and her members are drawn into the communion of life and love of the Trinity as a people brought into unity through the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This sharing in the communion of Trinitarian life is the basis for all Christian relationships and the foundation of all Christian communities. A Christian finds meaning in being actively caught up in the experience of a loving relationship with God and others through intimate union with His Son in a life totally prompted by the Spirit.

Central to this communio is the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life. In this sacrament, the Church's identity as the Body of Christ is most clearly ritualised and lived out. The Church is challenged to find ways to assist people, who are searching for meaning and truth, to find it in Christ. A life based on genuine Christian communio will be an important part in this process.

A diocese has the resources necessary to make it a particular Church in the communion of the universal Church. Through the ministry of the bishop and the sacramental life, she generates life in order to provide for the essential needs of the faithful. The cathedral is the "Mother Church" of the diocese where the bishop's cathedra is situated, the symbol of his teaching office, and where the Ordinary, in his role as principal celebrant of the Eucharistic liturgy, is the source of unity of the diocesan community.

In most parts of Oceania, the dioceses have different agencies which strive to help parishes and chaplaincies in their pastoral activities. They offer special support in providing resources and expertise. Diocesan programmes aimed at particular issues give the diocese a sense of unity. Members of the particular Church are often involved in missionary work. In some cases, diocesan synods have been held, and the diocesan pastoral council seen as an important aspect of communion. The preparation for the Jubilee Year has also been of great help in building up and making people aware of the communion of the diocese and the universal Church.

Parishes remain the ordinary point of contact of the faithful with the Church. Most Catholics recognise the parish as the community in which they experience the Church as communion. The quality of parish life has a significant effect on the faith of her members. Parishes need to reflect on their central and critical role in the process of building communion. Oftentimes, they are also the best pastoral institution where people can experience a sense of belonging and where they can grow in awareness and appreciation of the sense of believing and acting as disciples of Christ.

Many parishes have clusters of groups within their boundaries which assist in strengthening and experiencing communion, such as: liturgical groups, marriage preparation, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (R.C.I.A.), hospitality groups, justice and peace groups, ecumenical endeavours, etc.. The Catholic school also helps to build up communion since it is a common point of reference for Catholics who, in a number of cases, would have little other contact with the Church.

While the priest in the parish has a crucial role in witnessing to the Church, the laity are now collaborating together as they face various community activities that witness to the Kingdom of God. Indeed, parishes in isolated areas can be privileged situations in which community can be built, for it is the communio felt and lived out that sustains the Christian life.

The Eucharist is the soul and summit of communion in the parish, giving power and purpose to its multi-faceted activities. A considerable number of responses to the Lineamenta highlighted the problems associated with the shortage of priests in providing regular Eucharist to many parishes. This is felt in a particular way in Oceania due to the vastness of the territory it encompasses and the consequent problems of distance and distribution of its population.

Responses indicate that in many places basic Christian communities have been an affective means of communio. In these communities the faith is deepened and people 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. More and more Christians are convinced that they can more effectively evangelise others through their example of living together peacefully and promoting the Christian values of mutual love and unity in their local circumstances.

Bishops and Communion

52. The Pastors of the Church, the college of bishops with the Successor of Peter as head, are called upon to govern, teach and sanctify the faithful entrusted to them. It is their function to teach the faith handed on by the apostles, to sanctify the lives of the faithful, particularly in the Eucharistic sacrifice, and to lead their people in the ways of the Gospel. The bishop is the authentic teacher. He can only be an effective minister of communion, if he teaches the faith with energy, sensitivity and perseverance. He is the focus of unity in the diocese. His responsibilities are great and his decisions have important consequences, not only in his diocese but frequently outside it. The bishops' conference in a given nation or region plays an important role in assisting the individual bishop in his vocation, particularly through the conference's various commissions and agencies. Bishops need the support and prayers of their people and the co-operation of the various local Christian communities.

Disunity in the Church community such as dissent from official and authentic Church teaching or open opposition to the Church's authority, weakens the unity of the Church and her effective witness to the truths of the Gospel. At times, this lack of unity is evidenced by the formation of groups opposed to each other as a result of differing opinions on renewal in the Church. It is the task of the Church to be faithful to her mission of teaching the eternal truths. In this matter, bishops are authentic teachers and exercise their vocation as the primary and foundational ministers of communion.

The Local and the Universal Church

53. Responses indicate that, despite the vastly different cultures in Oceania, the particular Churches in this area know that united with their bishops and with the Pope, Christ's Vicar on earth, they are not alone as they endeavour to walk the way of Christ, to tell His truth and to live His life. Though the Church in Oceania is somewhat isolated, the local communities remains faithful to their belief that the Church is universal.

The sharing of resources at various levels of Church life in Oceania is a contribution each makes to the universal Church. The universal Church is enriched because of her presence in Oceania. The integration of faith and culture in Oceania offers a richness to the Church as the Christian message finds expression in new languages and gives new meanings to spiritualities that have existed for thousands of years. The relative youthfulness of the particular Churches in Oceania, their recent missionary experience and their relationship with indigenous peoples allows them to speak with a certain freshness to the universal Church. The rich universality of many cultures and traditions among its population can serve as a model for inclusiveness.

On their part, the particular Churches in Oceania benefit greatly from the universal Church. They need the universal Church with her antiquity and wisdom. They need a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves that has a tradition stretching back two millennia. They benefit from the teaching of the universal Church and continue to experience her material generosity. Clearly the particular Churches in Oceania depend for their full identity and mission on communion with the universal Church. In this regard, papal visits to many parts of Oceania have been a source of great blessing and a powerful symbol of unity.


CONCLUSION

 

Mary, Queen of Peace

54. When the missionaries came to Oceania, they brought with them the Catholic faith with its great devotion to Mary, who remains an integral part of the Catholic tradition in Oceania. For the missionaries, the mother of Jesus was a continuous help in their efforts of evangelisation and a refuge in their pains and difficulties. Her statue has a prominent place in numerous chapels and churches. In many parts of Oceania, she is venerated as the Help of Christians.

As a result of the missionaries preaching, devotion to Mary has found a heartfelt and joyful resonance in the Catholic community. The faithful remember how Mary has always guided and helped them because of her unique relationship to Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Recently, the bishops of Oceania proclaimed her as patroness of the Pacific region under her title of Queen of Peace.

The Gospel of Luke recounts that Mary, immediately after she welcomed the Word of God into her heart and her womb, set off on a journey through the mountainside 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 great truth of a new world to come, a world in which God would reign powerfully, a world of justice and mercy, a world of everlasting peace. 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 wanderings and in standing in suffering under His cross, became the mother of all believers. At the end of her life, Jesus brought her into His heavenly kingdom, to be with Him for ever. As Queen of Peace, she intercedes for her people in Oceania.

Mary, Woman of Faith

55. Mary's faith enables her to be a particular mother and queen for the believing community. 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, in his proclamation of the Good News and in His communicating 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 played a foundational role at the beginning of the Church. Her faith is an inspiring example for all those in Oceania, who seek to live the Gospel, to proclaim it and to bring the Gospel to bear fruit in the Church and society.

As the Help of Christians, Mary will assist the universal Church to reflect on the present and the future of the Catholic community in Oceania. As the Star of the Sea, she offers orientation and light during the storms of life and history. She is a guiding light for a Church walking the way of Jesus. She is an encouraging example for all who are called to tell the truth of Jesus. She is a nurturing mother for those who live the life of Jesus. She always points to Jesus, her Son. Under her loving care all believers will accept Jesus more and more as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for the Church and the peoples of Oceania.

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