The New Evangelization - Oceania


Synod of Bishops for Oceania

Message to the People

Dearly Beloved Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

1. We, Catholic Bishops, of both the Latin and Eastern Catholic Churches, Fraternal Delegates and other participants were invited by the Holy Father to come to Rome to share with him and each other in the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania. We have prayed, studied and reflected together on issues relating to the Catholic Church in our countries and in the world. Pope John Paul II has been an avid listener in all of our sessions, and having entrusted to him the main fruits of our sharing, we look forward to his considered response in due course. As we prepare to leave Rome, however, we wish to send this message to you all.

2. We have, literally, been brought from the "ends of the earth", to where the Apostles Peter and Paul poured out their blood in witness to their faith in Jesus Christ.

3. Many of you helped us to prepare for our Synod with its focus on: Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth and Living His Life.

4. This theme commits the Church in Oceania, in communion with the universal Church, to receive and proclaim the Gospel in the light of her own historical development and the many and diverse cultural, social, political and economic aspects of our vast and scattered region.

Official Opening

5. The Holy Father opened the Synod when he led us in the solemn celebration of the Eucharist at the tomb of the Apostle Peter on 22 November, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

6. The Bishops of Oceania, together with pilgrims and members of the Church in Rome joined the Pope in praying to the Holy Spirit to help the Church in Oceania to intensify her evangelizing mission in preparing for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

7. At the Mass, the Holy Father greeted you all in the person of your Bishops, and invited you to reflect on your life and renew your faith.

8. The many different places of Oceania with their rich cultural expressions were represented in the joyful and enthusiastic dance, song, prayer and ritual of the celebration.

9. The importance of the Word of God was beautifully illustrated by a procession with the Book of Gospels carried on a decorative Samoan throne and escorted by four chiefs serving as a guard of honour. The proclamation of the Gospel was heralded by the blowing of conch shells.

10. The overall effect left no doubt that the Spirit was "hovering over the waters" of Oceania.


11. We, the Synod participants greet you all with great joy and hope, in a spirit of collegiality and fraternal love, encouraging you to trust in Jesus Christ, who in the power of the Holy Spirit, is leading us all into the third millennium.

12. You know, as we do, that this same Spirit has, for thousands of years, been forming the lands of Oceania, reflecting the beauty and sacredness of God's creation and preparing the hearts of its peoples for the coming of Jesus, the Word of God.

13. This Word broke into history when "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1: 14), so that we too might be "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pt 1:4), and share in God's love and compassion.

14. Christianity came to Oceania in many different forms through missionaries who took to heart, Christ's command to "go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations" (Mt 28:19), and gave to us the precious heritage of our faith. What an enormous debt we owe those who brought and taught the Way of Jesus Christ: lay missionaries, priests, religious, men and women catechists.

15. We remember them. We also remember our ancestors, who so readily and enthusiastically accepted the Good News of Jesus Christ. Your hearts and those of your forebears were fertile fields in which the sower planted the seed of the Gospel (cf. Mt 13:14ff.).

16. That harvest has grown from the blood of martyrs and the prayers of saints. We praise God for those who sacrificed their all, so that God's kingdom could come: St Peter Chanel, and Blesseds Luis de San Vitores, Giovanni Mazzucconi, Peter To Rot, and Mother Mary MacKillop. We give thanks also for the heroic witness of holy men and women of other Christian traditions.

17. We acknowledge with deep gratitude, you, the priests, religious, lay men and women, who continue to proclaim the liberating message of the Word of God. Many tributes have been paid by Bishops to your dedication, commitment to and love for the Church. We are very much aware of the responsibility you accept as our co-operators in the pastoral care of God's people.

18. To you, mothers and fathers of families, custodians of life's values and co-creators with God, to whom is entrusted the future of life in Oceania, we offer our loving respect and grateful encouragement. Continue to make married love the centre-point of your lives, so that through you and your children's life may flourish.

19. We greet with admiration you catechists, educators in the faith, pastoral workers and lay missionaries who plant and nurture the Word of God in the hearts of all alike. Yours is a work of love so like that of Mary who in the beginning gave birth to the Word.

We greet with special affection the suffering, the poor, those estranged and distanced from the Church. You are very much in our thoughts.

20. We prayed for all of you in Papua New Guinea who suffered from the recent natural disaster, and for the people of Bougainville who have lived through years of conflict. We are very much aware of the courageous intervention of the Church in seeking an acceptable solution while, at the same time, recalling with sorrow those who have lost their lives in the conflict. You are very close to our hearts.

21. The indigenous minorities in our countries were never far from our minds during the Synod. You have a unique place in the life of the Church in Oceania and we accompany you in the struggle for your rights.

22. To the young people of Oceania we offer a joy-filled greeting. You are already a vital part of our Church, and our hope for the future. Walk always with Christ, listen to his Truth and live his Life.

23. Today we rejoice in the presence of God-with-us in Oceania. We have received a priceless legacy of faith. The Synod of Oceania is challenging us to build upon that legacy.

The Synod Sessions

24. Our days together in Rome have given us the opportunity of discussing together many important issues, including the ideas and suggestions you made to us, your Bishops, prior to our coming. The debates of the Synod were marked by a frank and honest expression of views. We listened attentively to each other, seeking to understand each other's opinions in the search for consensus. And so, we have sought more effective ways of walking the path of Jesus Christ, spreading his word, and extending his kingdom.

25. We heard in the course of our discussions the call of Christ to his people:
(i) "to come and follow me", as disciples in specific vocations: priesthood, consecrated life, marriage and the single state; in the call to mission and evangelization; in the ministry of Catholic schools and universities;
(ii) to facilitate the entry of the Word of God into our own history and locality;
(iii) to read the "signs of the times", in discerning and welcoming new expressions of spirituality ecclesial movements.

26. During our sessions the words of the commission of Jesus to preach the Gospel to every creature recurred often, and focused our attention on the role of the Bishop as teacher of the faith. We know that we are not alone in this and we recognize the key role of catechists, parish communities, Catholic schools, seminaries, universities, lay formation programmes and the media. Time after time, matters of social justice were raised and intimately linked to the establishment of God's kingdom. Major concerns included the issues of refugees and migration, environment, unemployment, development funding, health care, sexual abuse and the economy. The sacredness of life, the dignity of the human person, both women and men, and the common good of all peoples were integral to all our considerations.

27. Above all, the need for holiness in leaders and the faithful was stressed. If the Church is to be a teacher, she must first be a witness.

28. The Synod clearly understood that walking with, and telling the Word will avail little, if the Word, is not lived: We are called to present the compassionate face of Christ to the world and to draw all men and women into communion with the Body of Christ. We are to seek Unity in diversity and to be especially attentive to the marginalized and estranged.

29. In the light of the ecumenical vision outlined in the papal Encyclical Ut unum sint, we sought to renew our involvement in joint prayer, dialogue and action; to repent past sins against Christian unity; and to strive for the goals of ecumenism as outlined in Ut unum sint.

30. The Eucharist must stand at the heart of our sacramental life and our faith. For this reason, concern was expressed about the non-availability of the Eucharist in some areas. Given the centrality of the Eucharist, the ordained priesthood grows in importance; and this consideration led to other questions touching on the issue of priestly celibacy, vocations, formation and ongoing support for priests.

31. You young people are a vital part of our Church and we admire your generosity, enthusiasm and concern for others. We commit ourselves to walk with you as you face the many pressures of life.


32. We hope dear brothers and sisters that this message conveys to you something of our joys and concerns as we met in the Synod. We rejoice that we are called by Jesus Christ to speak his word, and to work with you for the furtherance of God's kingdom.

33. As we reflect on the generosity of God towards our regions and his compassion and love for the people of Oceania, we give thanks for his goodness.

34. Having rejoiced in, and enjoyed our Father's generosity, we are bound to share the gifts we have received, and especially the immeasurable treasure of our faith. We are all called to this privileged mission in the circumstances of the society in which we live.

35. The Synod of Oceania has proposed many possibilities which we must develop in order to further share God's Word and we eagerly look forward to doing this with you, so that as the people of Oceania, we may better walk Christ's Way, tell his Truth, and live his Life.

36. We concluded our Synod with the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, joined one in heart and mind, with Christ. With the Holy Father, we prayed that Christ's Spirit would inspire us to carry his word on land and sea to the farthest reaches of Oceania.

37. And finally, we asked the Mother

of God to intercede for us so that we might fully treasure what the almighty Father has done for us and give praise to his name.

38. May the prayer of this historic Synod also be yours:

Eternal God,
look with favour upon us,
as we draw our strength from the
Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania
to welcome the new millennium in Jesus Christ.
He is our Word become flesh who invites us to
walk his way, to tell his truth and to live his life.
We, the peoples of Oceania, diverse in our ways,
and scattered over a large area,
pledge to proclaim his love to the world,
to search for those gone astray and to lead them to you.
Mary, Queen of Peace, intercede for us your children,
as we make this prayer in Jesus' name.