Vibrant community bears witness to the true meaning of word “catholic”


The Diocese of Mendi is nestled in the mountains in the southern highland region of Papua New Guinea.

When the first missionaries came to the area in the mid-1950s there were no Catholics. The diocese now has 80,000 – around 10 percent of the population.

Bishop Donald Lippert says the diocese has a vibrant and growing faith, one which the people have embraced as their own, showing the universality of the Catholic Church.

Lippert, an American Capuchin, has been working in Papua New Guinea for more than 10 years and has been bishop of the Diocese of Mendi since 2012.

The dictionary definition of “catholic” is: including a wide variety of things; all-embracing. Lippert says the diocese really exemplifies what catholic means.

“To me, it is really beautiful and it really expresses the catholicity of the Church, that the people have embraced the faith as something that is truly theirs, something that is truly meaningful to them,” Lippert recently told CNA.

“They don’t look upon it as something foreign, as something coming from the outside. It is something that is very important to them and truly theirs.”

Lippert said that one of the greatest fruits of the Catholic faith he has witnessed in Papua New Guinea is freedom from fear. In the past many people “were afraid of evil spirits, they were afraid of tribal fighting,” he said. “Fear was a great motivator and very characteristic of their lives.”

“But with the embracing of the Catholic faith, that fear is dissipating. Because they know the power of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit can cast out any kind of evil, any kind of fear that they might have.”

Even the bishop’s pectoral ‘Tau’ cross is a sign of the faith of the people of Papua New Guinea. “It was made by one of the local people for me out of a shell, a shell that used to be their money, the kina shell,” he said.

“In fact, the money today is still called a ‘kina’ so it was something very valuable for them.”

“He took one of these shells and was able to make this pectoral cross for me. He gave it to me when I became a bishop; it’s very unique and very beautiful I think.”


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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