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Updated: February 28, 2002 05:00 PM GMT
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A Filipino archbishop has stressed the importance of mission before leaving for Papua New Guinea to begin his post as apostolic nuncio.

Pope John Paul II appointed Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana as apostolic nuncio to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands on Dec. 13.

Before leaving the Philippines Feb. 26 for Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea´s capital, Archbishop Yllana told UCA News it is "important for Filipinos to think beyond geographical boundaries and to realize that the Church can never be restricted in its territory."

He said the missionary thrust of Churches such as the Philippines helps nurture other Churches such as in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Philippine male and female missioners are a growing group in his new base, said the prelate, who was ordained titular archbishop of Montecorvino.

"I was told we have more than 30 priests of the Mission Society of the Philippines and many other Filipinos of different societies," Archbishop Yllana said, citing Filipino Salesian priests and Oblates of Notre Dame nuns from the southern Philippines.

He said about 30 percent of Papua New Guinea´s 4.6 million people are Catholics, and the Church there and the Church in the Solomon Islands are still largely missionary. There are three dioceses in the Solomon Islands and 18 dioceses in Papua New Guinea, Archbishop Yllana said.

"I heard that vocations are starting to grow but this takes time and many seminary professors are still from Australia, the Philippines and Europe," the Filipino archbishop said.

He noted that at least two Papua New Guineans have trained in Rome for seminary work in their territory. Divine Word priests and missioners from India are also there, he added.

"My mission as nuncio is primarily to the local Church, to make them feel that the Holy Father cares for them and is following their aspirations, that the Holy Father shares their difficulties and joys," Archbishop Yllana said.

The majority of the people in the territories are adherents of indigenous faiths. There are also other Christians.

"My mission is to carry out what the Holy Father envisions for the Church in Papua New Guinea as laid out in his apostolic exhortation after the recent Synod for Oceania," Archbishop Yllana stressed.

He explained that the proclamation and evangelization he attempts is "not conversion or proselytizing but of a sharing of joy of the gift of faith that we have."

He said in his new post he must be careful that while "sharing the faith, the Church respects the different traditions and cultures existing in the place."

Archbishop Yllana, 54, was ordained a priest in 1972 for the Archdiocese of Caceres, based in Naga City, 225 kilometers southeast of Manila.

He had served as assistant pastor of Caceres Cathedral Parish in Naga and became seminary professor.

After earning his doctorate in canon and civil law in Rome and completing his studies at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, a diplomat school there, the archbishop served as attache and second secretary in the Apostolic Nunciatures in Ghana, Togo, Benin and Sri Lanka.

At the time of his appointment to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, he was serving in the Taipei-based Apostolic Nunciature in China.

Archbishop Yllana is the second Filipino apostolic nuncio. The other, Archbishop Oswaldo Padilla, is assigned in Nigeria.

During his homily at the Feb. 6 thanksgiving Mass in Naga City, Archbishop Yllana urged the people to share their blessings "to the point of seeing beyond ourselves and our families."


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