Papua gets its first indigenous bishop, a ‘promoter of peace'
by Mathias Hariyadi

Yanuarius Teofilus Matopai You replaces Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar. Bishops from Papua New Guinea and East Timor attended the ceremony. Scores of natives presented gifts and performed traditional dances.

Jayapura (AsiaNews) – The ordination of the first indigenous bishop took place today in an atmosphere of indescribable joy in Jayapura, capital of Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province.

The Holy See chose Rev Yanuarius Teofilus Matopai You as the new bishop of Jayapura following the retirement of Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar.

The Apostolic Nuncio in Indonesia, Archbishop Piero Poppio, led the ceremony in Jayapura’s Christ the King Cathedral in the presence of bishops from Papua New Guinea and East Timor.

"I am happy to join in the communal joy from all parts of Papua,” said the nuncio. “I also want to express our gratitude to outgoing Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar who has best served Papuans for more than 30 years”.

"Starting today,” he added, “Papuan society is under the leadership of your native Papuan bishop who undeniably loves all Papuans, who will listen to your voices, and is ready to work with all parties to develop this land blessed by God.”

“Papua is a land of peace,” said Archbishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi of Merauke. It is not for the Church “to get involve in quarrels among Papuan natives."

For decades, Papua has been embroiled in internal conflicts and violence as pro-independence militants battle with Indonesian security forces. Local Christian leaders have repeatedly devoted themselves to the promotion of peace, which is what Bishop You also wants to do.

"I urge everyone to be strong in faith, and recite the prayers for Divine Mercy, asking God for help to promote peace in our society,” he told AsiaNews.

"I never dreamt of becoming a bishop. But then the Holy See chose me, fulfilling my mother's dream," added the newly ordained prelate whose mother, Maria You, travelled for two days from the Paniai region to reach Jayapura.

Bishop You, who was “in tears when the papal nuncio informed me of Pope Francis' choice," now wants to "continue the programmes that were planned by my predecessor, including finishing the construction of the cathedral church."

"My vision is to build a Church with a missionary identity. I am a native Papuan, but I will serve everyone in Papua. The bishop is morally destined to become a figure of union who does not have preferences."

Many Papuans celebrated enthusiastically the new prelate, giving him pigs and a variety of local dishes and performing traditional dances before Mass (see video below).

“This joy is felt not only in Jayapura, but throughout Papua,” said Fr Sutrisna Ferry Widjaja, a priest from the Diocese of Bandung, West Java, who follows local affairs.

Card Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, archbishop of Jakarta, delivered the homily during the ordination ceremony. “The new bishop will bring hope to this land of Papua,” he said, speaking about the presentation of Jesus in the temple.

Bishop Ladjar too expressed joy at the Vatican’s choice, as did Archbishop Anton Subianto Bunjamin, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Indonesia.

“The new bishop,” he said, “is a very humble and good person. The Vatican chose him not because he is Papuan, but because of his personality. May Papua become more Christian under his leadership,  more Papuan and more Indonesian.”

(Fr Ferry Sutrisna Widjaja da Jayapura contributed to this article)