Oceania bishops commemorate discovery of "Great Southern Land"

Eighty-two Catholic bishops from Oceania, including Sydney's Cardinal George Pell, are meeting this week in Fiji for their 5th Assembly which also coincides with the 400th anniversary of the 1606 landing on the Vanuatu island of Espiritu Santo by the Spanish explorer Pedro de Quiros.

According to New Zealand Catholic Communications, Sydney's plans for World Youth Day in 2008 will be on the agenda for discussion by the participants at the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania in Suva, Fiji.

Other topics to be discussed include the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II - Ecclesia in Oceania - and issues arising for the countries of the region in the face of increasing secularism.

The conference, which is being hosted by Archbishop Petero Mataca of Suva (pictured), coincides with the 400th anniversary of the first Mass ever celebrated in Oceania during Quiros visit.

The objective of De Quiros voyage and his crew of three small ships was to find the reputed "Great Southern Land of the Holy Spirit" ("Austrialia del Espiritu Santo") to claim it for Spain and the Church, with the support of Pope Clement VIII.

The ships' complement included four priests and eight brothers representing the Franciscans and the St John of God brothers, and on arrival in Vanuatu on Pentecost Sunday of that year, 14 May, they celebrated the first Mass in this part of the world.

Bishop Denis Browne from New Zealand who is the current President of the Federation believes that the greatest value of their Assemblies is the opportunity to share the many concerns they have in common and to discuss the ways they have adapted Ecclesia in Oceania according to their particular circumstances.

Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, is also delivering a personal message from Pope Benedict XVI.

Large gathering of Catholic bishops meeting in Fiji (NZ Catholic Communications 4/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bishops of Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands
Ecclesia in Oceania (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, 22/11/01)
Pedro Fernandez de Quiros (Wikipedia)
Pedro Fernandez de Quiros (Discoverers Web)
Naming Australia Incorporated

Oceania bishops plead for married clergy (CathNews 7/10/05)
Oceania bishops evaluate Ecclesia in Oceania document (CathNews 3/6/02)
Oceania Bishops to meet in PNG next week (CathNews 23/5/02)
Oceania bishops to meet next year in PNG (CathNews 27/7/01)

9 Aug 2006