Paranaque City, Philippines

Author: Rev. Maneno Moise Paluku, SDB
Title: Towards Christian Unity in Melanesia from the Perspective of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in the Light of Ut Unum Sint
Adviser: Fr. Alfred Maravilla, SDB
Degree: Master of Arts in Theology
Year: 2016

In response to the prayer of Jesus, “May they all be one” (Jn 17:21), taught by Unitatis Redintegretio and echoed by John Paul II in Ut Unum Sint to promote every suitable initiative aimed at witnessing to unity and communion between Christians, this thesis studies the path towards Christian unity in the context of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Solomon Islands (SI). Since the initial evangelization by Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, United Methodists, and other Evangelical Alliances missionaries, Christianity has grown in Melanesia but is challenged by wounds of division now worsened by the proliferation of fundamentalist ecclesial communities. This thesis examines the possible efforts towards unity, and proposes ways of commitment for the Church in PNG and SI towards full communion in the faith, sacraments, and ministry. This is enhanced through the evangelization of culture; reverence for traditional beliefs; collaboration in responding to various social issues; promotion of peace; and integral ecology in the light of Church teachings. Making use of various related literature on Christianity in Melanesia and on ecumenism, I tried to expose the relevant answers to specific questions in a way patterned on the theological model See-Judge-Act. This contextualizes this research in the pastoral and theological realities of Melanesia and its Christianity. Hence, I used the hermeneutical theology method. In chapter two, I analyzed first the historical reality of Christianity in PNG and SI and its dialogue with Melanesian cultures, life, the poor, and the youth. Then I re-read these facts from the biblical and magisterial perspectives in chapter three. Chapter four suggests ways to strengthen the commitment of the Church and every Christian.

If ever Christians in Melanesia are to respond in truth to the call of Christ, His message must find space in the traditional cultures and religions. From this inculturation shines the key value of communion. However, some fundamentalist ecclesial communities stand against any ecumenical dialogue. But, for those ecumenically committed, the promotion of unity involves every baptized person, and not just the privileged ecclesial leaders and theologians. Melanesian Christians are not to be mere recipients of the Gospel, but its witnesses. This unity bestowed by the Holy Spirit entails renewal and conversion even before it leads to dialogue of life, truth, and action where Christians are to do as much as possible together. In fact, the Joint Agreement on Baptism and the Joint Statement on Marriage are fruits of this. Aware that this quest for unity of faith, sacramental life, and ministry is not that simple, I realized that adequate formation of every faithful is important. This ongoing formation should be made practical in dealing with themes relevant to the local theology, such as communion, justice and peace, family, and poverty in the light of the Gospel. Therefore this thesis recommends pastoral ministers to be creative, committed, and humble agents capable of bringing harmony not by mere uniformity or consensus, but through communion.

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