A Catholic bishop of Alotau, Papua New Guinea, has launched an appeal during a severe food shortage following a cyclone engulfing the Catholic diocese. The Papua New Guinean islands located in the deep South Pacific region north of Australia are a hub for constant typhoons while also sitting on the seismic belt of the infamous “Ring of Fire” plates that cause series of volcanic eruptions and tsunamis that sweep the shores. A severe tropical cyclone known as ‘Ita’ slammed the remote Melanesian island coast in early April, wreaking havoc and destroying some 1000 houses and many crops in the poorest region of the diocese. “At this time thousands of these people are suffering from a severe food shortage,” said Bishop Rolando C Santos C.M., of Alotau, the capital of the country’s Milne Bay Province. “I am writing to make an emergency appeal for the people the Sudest, particularly, those of St. Alphonsus parish, Nimoa,” Bishop Santos wrote in a Dec. 18 message. “We are also appealing to the local people, and asking them to bring their donations to the church during these days of the Christmas novena,” he said. “Fr. Tony Young, MSC, parish priest of Nimoa, has been working hard asking for donations and distributing food,” Bishop Santos further added. “He just ran out of food supplies after distributing relief to about 800 families during the last two weeks.” The prelate recalled some help provide by Caritas of Papua New Guinea in May, but he emphasized, “It is especially at this time that the people of Nimoa are experiencing a serious need.” Explaining his concerns for the citizens, the bishop said that he sought the intervention of the local provincial government of Milne Bay, and “they are now collecting supplies and intend to ship these to Nimoa sometime next week.” The affected region is dependent primarily on local produce due to poor connectivity of roads and the mountainous region. The Catholic Church and missionaries have played an extensive role in setting up educational schools, promoting vocational skill and capacity development institutes in educating the tribal indigenous population. The underdeveloped remoteness of the region and poor communication systems keep information of the population partly eclipsed from the outside world. Catholic in Papua New Guinea constitute 27 percent of the total population, which is mainly Christian.
Catholic News Agency was founded in 2004, in response to Pope St. John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization." It is an apostolate of EWTN News.