Cardinal Ribat leads the Archdiocese of Port Moresby, the largest of 19 dioceses that serve Papua New Guinea. Every day he says he encounters families who are losing their livelihood or even their home to the effects of rising sea levels in their island community. Climate change is not a concept or a debatable point in Cardinal Ribat’s part of the world.
“We’re not waiting for it,” he says. “It has come. It’s affecting us now. Our homes are disappearing.”
Cardinal Ribat visited the Diocese as part of a 10-day visit to the United States in late March and early April. He celebrated Mass and gave talks at St. Theresa School, Our Lady of Solitude Parish in Palm Springs, St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside and met with Bishop Barnes and the Diocesan Curia at the Pastoral Center. A member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Cardinal Ribat has a connection to the Diocese through the many priests from that religious order that are in ministry here.
The people of the Diocese were responsive to his urgent message about the effect of climate change on his diocese, Cardinal Ribat said, specifically recalling the reaction of a young student at St. Theresa School.
“One girl raised her hand and said, ‘is there anything we can do?’ ” he said. “There’s a sense of compassion and wanting to do something.”
In his travels, which also included stops in Pennsylvania and at Georgetown University for a conference, Cardinal Ribat is advocating adherence to the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement, specifically a 1.5 percent reduction in carbon emissions. The United States was initially part of the Paris Agreement but withdrew from it in 2017.
He believes there is a direct relationship between manmade carbon emissions and rising sea levels in the South Pacific. Sea levels in Papua New Guinea are rising four times faster than the world average. Compounding this problem, says Cardinal Ribat, is deep sea bed mining that is taking place there. Marine habitat is being destroyed by this practice as precious jewels and minerals from the sea bed are sought.