Bishop Francis Meli has chosen Justitia et Veritas – Justice and Truth as his Episcopal motto.
His Excellency, Archbishop Kurian Mathew Vayalunkal, Apostolic Nuncio Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, was the Principal Ordaining Bishop.
The Assisting Bishops were Archbishop Francisco Panfilo, SDB and Bishop Cesare Bonivento, PIME. Cardinal John Ribat, Archbishop of Port Moresby, 15 bishops of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, priests, religious and faithful were part of the celebrations.
In his homily, Archbishop Kurian invited the Bp Francis to reflect on the highest call to the fullness of the priesthood. In the words of Pope Francis to consecrated persons in Chile in January 2018, he reminded Bp Francis that he needs to show the face of God’s mercy to his people.
The archbishop reminded him of three important responsibilities - to teach, to sanctify and to govern the people of God.
“You welcome, you walk and you stay with your flock,” he emphasised.
As a Good Shepherd, he also reminded him to care spiritually for his priests, especially the ones who suffer from isolation due to difficulties in communication and transport.
He invited the congregation to pray through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Anthony of Padua, Patron of the Diocese, for the protection, blessings and grace on its beloved local Shepherd.
The well prepared and beautiful liturgical celebration which lasted around four hours was coordinated by Fr. Peter Artiken.
It was attended by about 3,000 faithful from different corners of the Diocese of Vanimo, including priests and visitors from abroad.
Many from the Diocese of Rabaul and other parts of Papua New Guinea joined in the celebrations.
The Holy Trinity Baro parish choir that sang for the celebration was led by Brian Essi.
The St. Joseph parish led the entrance procession with a New Guinea Islands dance. The offertory dancers were from St. Theresa of the Child Jesus parish, while the Mary Help of Christians parish danced at the conclusion of the celebrations.
At the end of the celebration there were words of thanks by Cardinal John Ribat MSC and Bp Rochus Tatamai MSC.
Governor of Vanimo, Tony Wouwou, expressed his thanks for the educational institutions of the Catholic Church and looks forward to working with the new Bishop.
Archbishop Panfilo SDB spoke of a church that is catholic and apostolic and of his appreciation for the zealous man of prayer that Bp Francis Meli is.
A grateful Bp Francis Meli thanked God, the Holy Father, the Apostolic Nuncio and all present.
He thanked Bishop Cesare Bonivento, PIME for his leadership and commitment to the Diocese of Vanimo.
“You have handed over the Diocese of Vanimo in an excellent state. You have left a legacy and a challenge for me to continue,” he said.
He appreciated greatly Archbishop Panfilo for the years of inspirational life of prayer and leadership in service of the poor.
He then spoke of his principle in life: “God is number one in my life, people are second and I am third”.
Beautifully woven bilums were presented to the visiting bishops by school children. The feasting continued while the visiting bishops and guests departed.
The atmosphere was filled with gratefulness as all are happy to work closely with Bishop Francis Meli as Bishop of Vanimo. On his part, Bp Francis Meli looks forward as Shepherd of Vanimo to know and care for the spiritual and social needs of his flock of Vanimo.
The priests and religious have done an excellent job in preparing and organizing the Episcopal Ordination.
Brief History of Bp Francis Meli
Bishop Francis Meli was born on July 21, 1962, to Anthony Wale and Anna Aisiga on Poi Island in West New Britain Province.
He did his primary education at St. Leo Primary School, Sasavoru in Poi Island from 1972 to 1977. He then went on to do his secondary education at Kimbe Provincial High School from 1978 to 1980. From 1981 to 1983, the young Francis Meli attended the St Peter Chanel College in East New Britain Province and completed his secondary studies there.
He has done his tertiary studies at the Holy Spirit Seminary Bomana (NCD) from 1985 to 1990; St. Paul’s University Ottawa, Canada and Divine Word University, Madang.
His assignments included St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Rabaul; Judicial Vicar of the Archdiocese of Rabaul, Administrator of Sacred Heart Parish, Kerewat, Lecturer at Rapolo Major Seminary, Chaplin of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish, Kerewat, Administrator at Christ the King, Wairiki.
Since 2012, he has been Parish Priest at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Vunapope.
(Archbishop Kurian Mathew at the Ordination of Bp Francis Meli, left)