The Catholic Reporter_Catholic Bishops Conference Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands

New Ecclesiastical Heraldry in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands

The first article about Slovak heraldic artist and his work was published in February issue of The Catholic Reporter. This magazine is regularly published by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The rules of Ecclesiastical Heraldry in Missionary countries are often violated. Many Archdioceses and Dioceses do not have their own coats of arms, which are often replaced by coats of arms of the Diocesan Bishops. However, this is not heraldically correct and right. Of course, Bishops in missionary countries often have to deal with more serious problems than coats of arms. Sometimes, these are existential problems. On the other hand, the coat of arms of a Catholic Church institution can also be an instrument for spreading God’s word and a message of faith through symbols and church motifs in the form of attributes of saints that are dedicated to Cathedrals and are Patrons of Archdioceses and Dioceses. Popes themselves in their papers edited the relationship of the Church to the Heraldry. An important document that modified the use of ecclesiastical coats of arms was Motu proprio of the Saint Pope Paul VI Pontificalia insignia on June 21, 1968.

The first ecclesiastical coat of arms which I created for the new Bishop of Reykjavík Dávid B. Tencer OFMCap. from Iceland in the autumn of 2015 inspired me for further heraldic work. By creating a coat of arms a heraldic artist can leave behind a trace and heritage. The coat of arms of the Archdiocese or Diocese is used, after the approval by authorities, for decades or centuries until the end of the church institution itself. It’s usually a constant and unchangeable symbol. Of course, a personal coat of arms is used by the bishop until his death, and no other bishop or person should ever use the same coat of arms in the future according to the strict rules of the heraldry. The rules of the Ecclesiastical Heraldry are sometimes violated in missionary countries also because there is often no Church heraldic authority here. For comparison, the Institute of Heraldic consultors of the Episcopal Conference of Slovakia was created in 2008. At the same time, the guidelines for the creation of heraldic symbols (coats of arms) in the Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic Church in Slovakia were approved. The Heraldic consultant works as an expert in the field of ecclesiastical heraldry and directs the creators of the coats of arms to ensure that new coats of arms meet the criteria of Heraldry.

At the end of 2015, I addressed a number of Archbishops and Bishops mostly from missionary countries with the offer of a free design of coats of arms. I have chosen to present my Catholic faith and gifts that I have received from God. I did not intend to work for a reward, but at least in a small way help Bishops in their administration and pastoral work through ecclesiastical symbols in coats of arms. One of the first responses came at the beginning of 2016 from the Archdiocese of Madang from His Excellency Stephen Reichert OFMCap., Archbishop of Madang. The letter from the Father Archbishop have confirmed to me that life in Missionary countries is not easy, but yet a man can be happy to have his faith and trust in God. At this point, I remembered a book we had at our home library. The 1984 book by Dénes Balázs was called “Papua Nová Guinea” (in Slovak language). I remember that as children we were browsing and admiring colourful photos of beautiful landscapes and interesting people or beautiful birds-of-paradise. The photo of a Man from the Huri tribe on the front page fascinated us completely. I would never have thought that I would ever work for the Catholic Church in this country.

His Excellency Abp. Stephen allowed me to redraw his coat of arms into a heraldic criteria. Then came an opportunity to create a coat of arms for the Archdiocese of Madang. Later, a new Bp. Dariusz Kałuża MSF approached me and in my heraldic beginnings I also co-operated with Abp. Francesco Panfilo SDB and Abp. Christopher Cardone OP. As my work grew, my desire to create coats of arms of every Diocese and Archdiocese on Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Solomon Islands (SI) grew as well and I hope I will succeed in the future. By the end of 2018, I worked on 27 institutional and personal ecclesiastical coats of arms in PNG and SI. I had a valuable help from Associated Professor Miroslav Glejtek, Ph.D. who is a Heraldic consultor of the Episcopal Conference of Slovakia.

I also designed seals and flags for each institution and for some dioceses and bishops also letterhead papers. I have authored following coats of arms: Archdiocese of Rabaul, Archdiocese of Madang, Archdiocese of Honiara in Solomon Islands, Diocese of Alotau-Sideia, Diocese of Goroka, Diocese of Kimbe, Diocese of Bereina, Diocese of Vanimo and Diocese of Kavieng. In the case of the Diocese of Mendi I only modified the original design of the coat of arms created by Francisco Miguel González Salado. I have also created new coats of arms of the following church dignitaries: Bp. Dariusz Piotr Kałuża MSF, Bp. Francis Meli and Abp. Christopher Michael Cardone OP (unfinished proposal yet). Reconstructions and modifications of the already used coats of arms include: Abp. Stephen Joseph Reichert OFMCap., Abp. Francesco Panfilo SDB, Abp. Karl Hesse MSC, Bp. William Regis Fey OFMCap., Bp. Rolando Crisostomo Santos CM, Bp. Cesare Bonivento PIME and just a redraw and minor modifications to Deacon Paul Sullivan’s original proposal coat of arms of Bp. Donald Francis Lippert OFMCap. For the purpose of the important anniversaries of the creation of some Dioceses, I also reconstructed coat of arms of the dead bishops: †Abp. Louis Couppé MSC, †Bp. Gerard Vesters MSC, †Bp. Leo Isidore Scharmach MSC, †Abp. Johannes Höhne MSC, †Abp. Albert-Leo Bundervoet MSC, †Bp. Paschal Sweeney CP and †Bp. John Etheridge CP.

In conclusion, I am glad I have been able to work on so many coats of arms in PNG and SI, as well as in many other missionary countries. My heraldic work for missions is and will always be free of charge. It is my way how to thank God for the talent He blessed me with. In my opinion, every one of us can think how to thank God for His goodness and love.