Recalling His Visit to Bangladesh, Singapore,Fiji Islands, New Zealand, Australia and Seychelles

Author: Pope John Paul II

In his General Audience on Wednesday, 3 December 1986, the Holy Father expressed his joy over his recent Apostolic Visit to the various peoples of Oceania.

1. Today I wish —before you, here present for the general audience, to thank Jesus Christ, Shepherd of our souls, for the service that I have been able to carry out from November 18 to December 1. The route that this service has traveled in its development has passed through Bangladesh (Dhaka), Singapore, the Fiji archipelago in the Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, stopping, during the return to Rome, also in the Seychelles Islands of the Indian Ocean. .

Responding to the invitation of the respective Episcopates, and also of the civil authorities, I have been able to carry out this service and, at the same time, deepen the experience of the Church in that vast region of the globe. To all who have contributed to this journey and have collaborated in its realization, I express heartfelt gratitude.

2. The central point of every encounter has always been the Eucharist, and around it the local programs of the papal service have developed, carefully prepared by the clergy and the laity under the guidance of the bishops.

Allow me to express the joy I experienced during Holy Mass in Dhaka as I ordained 18 new priests for the Church in Bangladesh , where Christians constitute a small part of society, living in the midst of a mainly Muslim and partly Hindu population. This nation is recently an independent state. About a hundred million people live in difficult climatological and economic conditions in a relatively small territory.

3. The situation is diverse in Singapore , which has also recently become an independent City-State, with a high level of economic development. Here too the Eucharistic liturgy was the culminating point of the meeting with the local Church. Christians, although they constitute a relatively small minority, try to bear witness to the paschal mystery of Christ in the midst of a cosmopolitan society, in which the negative influence of secularization is noticeable —along with the benefits of well-being.

4. The stay in the Fiji Islands transported us —in the middle of the Pacific— to the world of Polynesian culture , of which it is still a typical expression, for example, the traditional rite of welcome reserved for important guests. Some elements of this traditional ritual have been integrated into the liturgy, as noted during the Holy Mass. The results achieved by evangelization are remarkable, and in the Christianization of the environment the Catholic Church has its part. The collaboration that takes place within the Pacific Conference of Bishops, currently chaired by the Archbishop of Suva, a Polynesian by birth, is important. Noteworthy is also the interdiocesan seminary.

5. The visit to New Zealand has centered around the Solemnity of Christ the King. The local episcopate wanted to join it to the prayer for peace, according to the motto " The peace of the heart is the heart of peace ". The prayer for peace has accompanied the Eucharistic assemblies in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The beautiful liturgy that took place there for the sick with the administration of the sacrament of anointing is worthy of particular remembrance.

The program of peace within New Zealand society is manifested in a particular way by the promotion of a balanced relationship between the Maori , the first inhabitants of New Zealand, and those who arrived later from different parts of the world, especially the Anglo-Saxon. A condition of this peace is the request for the just place of the Maori in the whole of the social and cultural life of the country.

In the religious field, this program is expressed through interfaith collaboration , of which the ecumenical celebration in Christchurch was a moving expression during the visit.

6. The Australian program deserves special relevance, first of all because of the time and place where the main meetings have been held, which have always had their central point in the Eucharist. The geography of the papal service in Australia has embraced, beginning with the capital Canberra, Brisbane, Sidney, Hobart in Tasmania, Melbourne, Darwin and Alice Springs (Northern Territory), Adelaide and Perth. The last two visits have coincided with the first Sunday of Advent.

In this way the historical profile has also been put in evidence , which for the Australian society and for the Australian Church has an important meaning. Australia, which recently celebrated the two hundredth anniversary of its existence in the historical dimension , finds itself in the same place with " prehistory " itself." that goes back to distant millennia. The living and constantly present testimonies of this "prehistory" are on the Australian continent the "aboriginals" (primitive Australians), to whom at the Alice Springs meeting, I was able to assure the request and solidarity of the Church. The problem of an orderly regulation of relations with them, a problem that has had its shadows in the past, continues to await an adequate solution. This is also the task of the Church, which is sent with the Gospel to meet of all men and all cultures.The Church in Australia has tried to fulfill this mission and continues to do so.

7. The beginnings of the Church in these two hundred years have not been easy. However, it can be said that this period has had the effect not only of rooting the missionary sense, but also a gradual affirmation of the Catholic population thanks to the emigrants , who have brought with them the Catholic faith and belonging to the Church. Beginning with the Irish Catholics, ever new national groups of Catholics came to the Australian continent in search of the possibility of work and life. These groups are numerous and it would be difficult to name them all here. The period after the Second World War clearly increased the presence of Catholic immigrants, first of all from Europe(Italians are perhaps the largest group), and then also from South Asia (for example, from Vietnam).

The Church in Australia is aware of its multinational and multicultural nature. This awareness is particularly alive in the groups that upon arriving in Australia have lost their first homeland through no fault of their own.

8. The program of pastoral service among the faithful of the Church in Australia has been prepared with great insight . In this way it has been possible not only to participate in the mission that this Church is fulfilling, but also to make a contribution to the tasks that it proposes.

The basis of the activity of the Church in Australia is the parish, which is, so to speak , allied in a particular way with the family in carrying out educational tasks . The entire system of Catholic schools (particularly the elementary ones) that carry out their activity in the context of the parishes is oriented towards this. The school thus becomes a particularly important field of the apostolate of the clergy and the laity, both of parents and families, of teachers, educators and auxiliary personnel. The State respects this system and favors it even materially.

Another fundamental dimension of the Church's activity in Australia is charitable service to the needy , first of all to the sick and disabled. This service finds its expression in organizations and associations, but also in institutions , such as hospitals and various nursing homes.

9. Meetings with different human environments had their place in the program of the visit to the Church of the Australian continent . First of all, according to the criterion of age : in this way I have been in the environment of children, then in that of youth, in that of adults —spouses and parents— and finally in that of the representatives of the "third age". In addition, there have been meetings according to the criteria of the different professions (or rather, of vocations): I have thus seen industrial workers, farmers, "intellighenzia" groups. Through contact with these environments, the Church in Australia tries to be present in the contemporary world, including also the world of culture and science.(From this point of view, the visit to the oldest university in Australia, in Sydney, was significant).

This entire program reflects at the same time the activity of these people and of the groups that have a key meaning for the evangelization of the Church: the diocesan priests, the different male and female religious congregations . Australia and the Church in Australia owe them much. An ever-present problem is the question of vocations , particularly among the new ethnic groups.

The Church in Australia also participates in the missionary work of the universal Church.

10. The papal service on the Australian continent—as indeed during the other stages of this journey, in many places and in various ways—has been met with conscious and consistent collaboration in the ecumenical field . What happened in Melbourne may be symbolic, where before a great ecumenical assembly, the visit to the Anglican cathedral took place, and the torch lit there was taken to the stadium, the place of common prayer for all Christians.

It is worth adding that, within the Catholic Church, the various rites corresponding to the various Eastern Churches are also represented in Australia .

In closing, I would also like to say that representatives of political life and the Diplomatic Corps have participated in the visit everywhere. Particularly eloquent has been, in this sense, the meeting with the members of the Australian Parliament. I would especially like to thank the systematic cooperation of the different federal Estancias and of all the States, as well as the municipal authorities, in the preparation and development of the visit.

11. The Holy Mass in Port Victoria —during a stopover of a few hours in the Seychelles Islands— was the last stage of the papal service throughout this trip. This has offered the occasion for a cordial meeting with the population of that place, which mainly belongs to the Catholic Church, and with the authorities. The Eucharistic celebration has been followed with intense participation, also expressed with fervent and devout songs.

12. As we look at the whole of this papal trip — the longest made so far — I wish, together with my brothers in the Episcopate of Bangladesh, Singapore, the Fiji Islands, New Zealand, Australia and the Seychelles Islands, to collegially renew the expression of the wish that we have inherited from the Apostles: may Christ be ever more the way, the truth and the life for all those to whom our pastoral mission is addressed. We also want to be servants of the Advent of the Lord!

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