THE VISIT of the iconic Our Lady of Fatima statue to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville has been a phenomenon that has united Bougainvilleans across the once troubled region.
Scores of Roman Catholics poured into churches across the Bougainville Diocese and many more lined the streets and highways as the faithful came together.
Catholicism remains the dominant church on Bougainville comprising about 70% of the population.
Leading the faithful from the beginning has been President John Momis, a staunch Catholic, who praised the initiative Bougainvilleans took to welcome Our Lady of Fatima.
“For us Catholics, during mass it represents the sacrifice that Jesus offered to liberate and empower us to create the kingdom of God here on earth.
“As Catholics, we affirm that Mary is the mother of Jesus the man who is also is God in nature and we believe that she has the power to intercede on our behalf through her son,” he said.
Catholics from throughout the Bougainville Diocese gathered at Hahela Parish as they prepared to farewell the statue of Our Lady.
Many made the pilgrimage from as far away as the Solomon Islands, South Bougainville and the atolls, braving treacherous seas and long treks from their homes.
The unity displayed by Bougainvilleans brought the people together under a common belief.
While there may be differing views on the region’s political future, a united front to choose to remain with the rest of PNG or to forge an entirely independent nation remains the prerogative of the Bougainville people.
Although the image of Our Lady of Fatima has now departed Bougainville’s shores, a strong sense of unity and optimism remains with the people of Bougainville as they face their brave new future.