of Papua New Guinea
Diocese of Port Moresby
Bishop Peter Ramsden
In 2005 Bishop Denys Ririka was the first Anglican bishop to be invited to join an “ad limina”, which is when a country’s RC bishops go together to visit Rome. I was invited to join them for the 2012 visit at the beginning of June. I stayed with the 22 RC bishops from PNG and the Solomon Islands at the Domus Internationalis, a guest house for visiting clergy in the heart of the city. The three parts to the visit were worship at the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul, reporting to the various Vatican offices called dicasteries, and a meeting with the Pope.
St Peter and St Paul were both executed and buried in Rome. The “ad limina” began with a mass at the Basilica of St Paul and prayers at his tomb. Having preached about Paul many times and remembering the final pages of Acts of the Apostles describing his arrival in the city, it was very special to be at his tomb.
Mass in the Catacoombs
The dicasteries are the Vatican departments dealing with Health Work, Christian Unity, Interreligious Dialogue, Religious Orders, New Evangelization, Education, Justice and Peace, Doctrine and Sacraments, Communications and Immigrants. The senior staff of each department, usually headed by a cardinal, welcomed our party, explained something about their work, asked about the situation in PNG and SI and joined in discussion. The PNG reports were about situations familiar to me and often I thought how the RCs and Anglicans share many of the same problems as we seek to witness to Christian values in PNG.
In the Vatican before seeing the Pope
On one evening I was able to return some Anglican hospitality when we all visited the Anglican Centre in Rome. We were welcomed by Australians Canon David Richardson, the Director, and his wife Margie who has been to PNG and visited Mt Hagen. The centre houses a large library of Anglican theological and spiritual writing and is an important part of our ecumenical witness in the city. The centre began in 1966 when the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) began its work. The bishops were interested to hear how at that time Pope Paul VI gave his episcopal ring to the Archbishop of Canterbury as a sign of Christian brotherhood. After a talk from Canon David we prayed together in the chapel and then had supper.
At the Anglican Centre in Rome
At the heart of Rome stands St Peter’s Basilica. We visited there early one morning for mass at the tomb of St Peter in the crypt below the High Altar then later we went to meet the Pope. We were driven through the Vatican courtyards, saluted to by the Swiss Guards and ushered into a large waiting room before meeting Pope Benedict in his library. All the bishops were in black cassocks so I was the odd man out in my purple one. I gave the Pope a copy of our PNG Anglican Prayer Book which not only witnesses to our shared liturgical tradition but also reminds us all to continue to pray for unity of all Christian people.
Giving the PNG Anglican prayer book to the Pope
An “ad limina” is a really special thing for the PNG RC bishops and it was a great gesture for them to invite an Anglican again. Being with them and yet not one of them reminded all of us of the unfinished business we have of praying and working for Christian unity. This visit showed that PNG remains an important pioneer and player in international Anglican/RC relations.
Bishop Peter Ramsden