The Catholic Church in Rabaul in Papua New Guinea says a Malaysian logger has illegally acquired a large parcel of its land at Putput in East New Britain.
The apparently fraudulent sale came after the church obtained a restraining order when the logging company arrived unannounced on the site in November and set about establishing a camp.
The restraining order was issued just before Christmas however the loggers had since returned after reports two local men had sold the land to the Malaysian company.
But Rabaul Archbishop Franceso Panfilo said they had no right to do so, since the land, nearly 17,000 hectares, has belonged to the church for generations.
He says "And we have the document that it was bought in 1951 but apparently we cannot find the title [which is held by the PNG Land Department] but you know there have also been some previous decisions from the Land Department which has de clared that the church is the protector of this land."
Archbishop Panfilo said he hopes a court sitting in Kokopo in East New Britain, starting next week, will resolve the issue.