PNG cult leader absolved of sin

AAP/January 30, 2009

The South Pacific's first native Anglican bishop, who ran off with a former nun and set up a cargo cult in Papua New Guinea, has been forgiven.

Pioneering Sir George Ambo served as PNG's Anglican Archbishop from 1983 and retired in 1989 but was excommunicated after shacking up in 2007 with a former Anglican mother superior, Sister Cora.

The pair founded the 'Puwo Gawe Ministry', in local language meaning "come see" after Cora claimed she saw spirits of dead relatives returning to their province with large quantities of goods.

Cora believed a new better world was coming where inequality, suffering, and death would stop.

An Anglican representative in Popondetta, Oro Province in northwest PNG, told AAP the church's schism was healed and they had now moved on.

"Ambo was a great man whose intentions were always to help," he said.

Ambo was first ordained a priest, together with his brother, in 1958 and never shied from admitting his grandfather was a warrior who practised cannibalism.

In 1960 Ambo became the first Papuan bishop and the first indigenous bishop of the South Pacific. He spent the next 23 years in Oro.

But when he strayed from the church he was plagued by cargo cult controversies.

Ambo died in July last year aged 85.

The Bishop of Popondetta, Joseph Kopapa, wrote that on his death bed, Ambo was "reconciled to his Creator and the Church" and had apologised for 'cargo cult' involvement.

"His name has been completely cleared of any taints at the reconciliation process," he said.

"(Ambo wanted) to help Anglicans who had drifted away from the Church," he wrote.

Cargo cults have existed ever since Papua New Guineans first encountered Westerners in the mid 19th century.

During World War 2 with Australian and American planes dropping goods all around, the Pacific villagers believed their ancestors were delivering them cargo.

PNG has seen many disturbing cargo cults that most often are led by former religious leaders who, like the jailed Steven Tari, known as 'Black Jesus,' con young vulnerable villagers into committing illegal acts.

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