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Indonesia

Papua bishop hopes to find successor soon

Franciscan Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar of Jayapura has been criticized by lay Catholic activists

Papua bishop hopes to find successor soon

Franciscan Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar of Jayapura (Photo: YouTube)

A bishop in Papua who has often been the target of criticism from lay Catholic activists says he hopes to get a successor soon.

“I applied for a retirement before I was 75 years old,” said Franciscan Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar of Jayapura, who turned 78 on Nov. 4.

“Until now I waited for [the pope’s] answer with great longing. Turns out there has been no response. Why so? Ask the pope,” he was quoted as saying by news portal Tabloid Jubi.

The retirement age for a Catholic bishop is 75.

Bishop Ladjar, who is from Lembata, East Nusa Tenggara province, has served the diocese since 1997.

In recent years, the bishop has often been criticized by Papuan Catholic lay activists for his lack of attention to humanitarian issues in the easternmost region where conflict continues between rebels and the Indonesian military and police.

If the appointed bishop is a non-Papuan, especially one who does not know the local dynamics and the will of the people, we will continue our actions

Since February, the activists have started to hold rallies in churches in Jayapura every Sunday, airing their demand for the Vatican to appoint native Papuan priests to become bishops in their region. They want Bishop Ladjar to be succeeded by a native Papuan.

Soleman Itlay, one of the activists present at the Sunday rallies, said he hoped the Vatican would hear their aspirations.

“If the appointed bishop is a non-Papuan, especially one who does not know the local dynamics and the will of the people, we will continue our actions,” he told UCA News.

He said they did not have personal hate for Bishop Ladjar and other non-Papuan bishops.

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Their dissatisfaction, Itlay said, was triggered by the Church's silence on issues of violence as well as the marginalization of indigenous Papuans.

“The Catholic Church in Papua is not doing well. Even now, there are groups who choose to remain Catholic and recognize the pope but no longer want to recognize the hierarchy of the Church in Papua and Indonesia,” he said.

Many Indonesian missionaries from other islands of the nation are sent from different dioceses to Papuan dioceses in a "twinning" and exchange of priests between Indonesian dioceses.

The region at the easternmost edge of the Southeast Asian archipelago has been the scene of intermittent clashes for decades due to lack of development and Papuans' aspiration for independence.

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