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Papuans in Indonesia seek to honor missionary priest

Bishops urged to mark the Church's arrival in the region 127 years ago by declaring Catholic Mission Day

Papuans in Indonesia seek to honor missionary priest

Jesuit Father Cornelis Le Cocq d'Armanville was the first missionary priest in Papua. (Photo: mshkatolikpapua)

The Catholic Church in Papua celebrates 127 years this year, prompting a call for May 22 to be declared Catholic Mission Day to mark the anniversary of the arrival of the first missionary in the Indonesian region.

Father Cornelis Le Cocq d’Armanville, a Dutch Jesuit missionary priest, arrived in Indonesia’s easternmost region on May 22, 1894, to introduce Catholicism to local people.

He arrived in what is now Fakfak district in West Papua from the Seram islands in North Maluku province after serving in Central Java and on Flores.

The missionary went on to proclaim the Gospel across Papua for two years before being killed when a ship he was on sank off the coast of southern Papua.  

To mark his arrival in Papua, priests and Catholics in Timika Diocese have proposed that local bishops declare May 22 as Catholic Mission Day.   

They also want the bishops to erect a statue of Father d'Armanville in Sorong-Manokwari Diocese. 

We want to educate Catholics in Papua about the arrival of the Catholic mission in Papua

The Catholic Church in Papua has five dioceses — Merauke Archdiocese and Sorong-Manokwari, Agats, Jayapura and Timika dioceses.

Father Alphonse Rodrigues Biru Kira, one of the priests behind the call, said Catholics should know their local history.

“We want to educate Catholics in Papua about the arrival of the Catholic mission in Papua and hopefully encourage the young to follow the example set by Father d'Armanville and others,” Father Biru Kira told UCA News.

He said the recommendation will be sent to the local bishops and apostolic administrator of Timika.

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Father Frans Madegai Utii, a parish priest in Timika Diocese, said he backs the recommendation.

“It is important because the young should know their history and the first missionary to bring the Catholic Church’s mission to Papua is an important event,” he told UCA News.

Father Gaby Ngga, the provincial of the Franciscan order in Papua, also backed the idea. “It can awaken a spirit in local Catholics,” he said.

When asked about the idea by UCA News, Sacred Heart Archbishop Petrus Mandagi of Merauke only said it would be discussed. 

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