The Antipodes, Under Our Lady’s Mantle

June 10, 2020

Papua New Guinea was consecrated to the Virgin Mary on May 25, 2020, on the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, to implore the protection of the Queen of Heaven against the coronavirus epidemic.

Elizabeth II now has a strong competitor in Papua New Guinea. If the British monarch symbolically reigns over this distant part of the Commonwealth, it is another queen—“celestial, and powerful like an army drawn up in battle”—who has just taken possession of the country.

The date of May 25 was not chosen at random: on this day, the Salesian family—very present in the country, and at the origin of the Marian consecration—celebrates Our Lady Help of Christians, patron of the institutes founded by St. John Bosco.

Taking advantage of the easing of the confinement, Msgr. Kurian Mathew Vayalunkal, the Apostolic Nuncio in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and Msgr. Francis Meli, the Bishop of Vanimo, were able to take part in the ceremony.

Since the 19th century, religious from numerous institutes, often of French origin, have devoted themselves to the evangelization of the Papuan-New Guineans: Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Issoudun, Sisters of Saint Joseph of Cluny, Salesians, Montfortians , Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Missionaries of the Divine Word, etc.

Of the 8.6 million inhabitants of Papua New Guinea in 2020, 26% are Catholics and 64.3% Protestant, in a country where animism remains strong.