Source: Special Bougainville Correspondent
Catholic Bishop Bernard Unabali has now been informally sidelined by priests of Bougainville. This Bishop has now been condemned by the priests for not upholding principle of Late Bishop Gregory Singkai “Yumi iet i sios” (We are the Church). The principle on which many priests stood on when fighting for social justice during the ten year crisis up until today. According to a local priest from the Central region, Bishop Unabali has been too quiet since he took office.
In Catholic Church structure bishop takes care of political and administrative responsibilities. Whilst in the Westminster governance system the responsibility is separated. And for Bougainville, the Catholic population was more than pleased upon the return of an indigenous bishop; Bernard Unabali was someone who had been with the people throughout the ten year civil war.
However, since taking office it has become evident that Bishop Bernard Unabali has not become an independent judge on the issues affecting Bougainville today, and most importantly for the predominant Catholic population in the region.
Catholic Church for reason unknown has been very quiet. The people are wondering why the Diocese head is not speaking out on the impending issues in the region, especially the ones affecting the people in the Autonomous Region. To date, there has never been a word of concern nor opposition heard from the church on corruption by the government and other stakeholders in the region.
A well-known priest in Central Bougainville has questioned the Bishop’s presence as he does not know whether Bishop Unabali is “alive or not”.
“The bishop should be vocal on social justice. We are seeing corrupt deals taking place right before the Catholic Church’s eyes. This bishop has to be changed. We do not want the church to contribute in bringing another blood shed soon Bougainville. The silence from our Bishop is too deafening”.
Priests in the region are very much concerned that the silence from their Diocese head will become a contributing factor to the detriment of the region, and that the work of the church can be undermined and become fruitless if the church does not speak out for social justice for its people.