The Solomon Islands are a group of over 900 islands in the South Pacific, roughly 450 miles (720 km) to the east of New Guinea and 1300 miles (2000 km) northeast of Australia.
The Catholic diocese of Gizo is based in the town of Gizo, the capital of the island of Ghizo and of the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. The territory of the diocese also includes over 40 smaller islands however, within a radius of around 190 miles (300 km). Today most of the inhabitants of the Solomon Islands are Christians, although the majority belong to various Protestant denominations. Catholics make up roughly 20% of the population.
Bishop Luciano Capelli is happy that by now the majority of the sixteen priests in his diocese are native islanders. The number of local vocations is increasing, and this year, the year in which the diocese celebrated the Golden Jubilee of its foundation, another two young island men were ordained to the priesthood. It was an occasion of great celebration.
Nonetheless, ministering to around 11,000 Catholics, scattered over a vast area and on many different islands, is a tremendous challenge. To reach the faithful on the various different islands, the priests have to travel for many hours by boat, and then in many cases make long and difficult journeys on foot through the bush as well. More priests are needed, but the diocese is poor, and the bishop is already struggling to support the priests he currently has. On top of this there is the financial responsibility for the formation of the new vocations, to say nothing of the Herculean and still unfinished task of repairing and rebuilding the churches and other Church properties that were destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami of 2017.
Not surprisingly, therefore, the bishop and his priests were immensely grateful for the Mass stipends donated by our benefactors – for a total of 13,200 Euros – which we were able to forward to the diocese, and which Bishop Capelli was then able to share out among his priests. As laid down in Canon law, these Masses were then celebrated by the priests for the intentions of those who gave them. [This should not be seen in any way as a „payment“ for these Masses, but rather as a gesture of gratitude and material support for the priest on the part of those who gave them]. In many such poorer countries, where the priests do not receive any regular financial remuneration, these gifts represent an important and even vital contribution, not only for their own personal support but also for the support of their parish communities.
„Thank you for your help and for once again remembering the diocese of Gizo“, writes Bishop Capelli. And heartfelt thanks from us also to all of you who have given these offerings!