Youth, pastoral care in remote areas, AIDS and climate change were among the key concerns of the Federation of Oceania Bishops Conferences assembly.
The Federation elected Bishop Peter Ingham of Wollongong, New South Wales, as its president in Fiji last month.
According to a statement from the Federation – which includes the Bishops from the Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, New Zealand and Australia – outgoing Federation chair, Bishop Denis Browne, noting the diversity of the church throughout the region, has called on the Spirit of God to make the church more faithful, more hopeful and more loving.
The Federation’s fifth General Assembly ended on Friday 11 August in Suva, Fiji. Previously the bishops had met in 2002 in Rabaul, PNG, in Rome during the Synod for Oceania in 1998, in Auckland in 1994 and in Sydney in 1990.
With an Oceania land area of over 9 million square kilometres within an ocean many times that size, the statement said, greater sharing of resources within the Federation, better communication between the bishops’ conferences and pastoral care for people in remote areas emerged as important priorities during the week-long meeting.
The bishops voiced great concern about climate change and its implications for the low-lying islands of the Pacific, the statement said.
HIV and AIDS was another topic broached by the conference.
World Youth Day 2008 (WYD) was a particular focus of attention. Bishops and their diocesan teams will be working together to ensure that the youth of Oceania offer a fitting welcome to the youth of the world in July 2008.
During the two years leading up to the WYD, the church will focus on the evangelisation of youth and ways that youth can feel more at home in the church.
According to the statement, the bishops are particularly concerned about how to use media and appropriate language to lead young people to a personal relationship with Christ.
Bishop Ingham was elected president for the next four years, and Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Guam was elected vice-president.
The other members of the Federation’s Executive Committee are Archbishop John Dew (New Zealand), Bishop Michel Visi (Vanuatu), Bishop Alphonse Chaupa (Papua New Guinea), Bishop Chris Cardone OP (Solomon Islands), Bishop Christopher Prowse (Melbourne), Bishop Robin Leamy (New Zealand)