On August 25, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church decided to expand the pastoral responsibility of its Diocese of Singapore to cover East Timor and Papua New Guinea.
According to a new report from Interfax, about 1,000 indigenous Papuans are interested in adopting holy Orthodoxy, and more than 100 have officially appealed to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill to start and Orthodox mission in the country.
According to the Miklouho-Maclay Foundation, dedicated to fostering relations between Russia and Papua New Guinea, the conversion of local residents to Orthodoxy began in January and February when Fr. Kirill Shkarbul, the rector of the Holy Cross Church in Taipei, visited the East Sepik Province. After conversations with him, an entire tribe—about 1,000 people in various settlements—decided to become Orthodox. Fr. Kirill then went to the island of Bougainville, where the inhabitants also showed interest in Orthodoxy.
According to the priest, several Papuans were baptized almost immediately, becoming the first Orthodox in the country, while more than 100 are still preparing to enter the Church. Orthodox converts have offered several plots of land for the construction of churches, according to the Miklouho-Maclay Foundation.
While the Patriarchate of Constantinople considers Papua New Guinea to be within the territory of its Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, and the Antiochian Patriarchate considers it part of its Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand, and All Oceania, there are no parishes yet established there.
According to the 2000 census, 96% of the nearly 9 million papuans identify as Christians. About a quarter are Catholics, a fifth are Lutherans, and there are also Adventists, Pentecostals, and Anglicans. At the same time, many Papuans combine their Christian faith with traditional indigenous beliefs.