Tena koutou katoa. Greetings to you, my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Forum of Newly Consecrated Bishops
Greetings to you all as I return from “Baby Bishops’ School” in Rome. It was a special grace to join with over 80 bishops from around the world for the forum of newly consecrated bishops. We experienced the diversity of the Church and heard first-hand the joys and sorrows of proclaiming the Gospel in many challenging parts of the world. We were reminded of Pope Francis’ prophetic insight that “we no longer live in an era of change, we live in a change of era.” Cardinal Tagle gave us a moving presentation on
responding to such challenges. He is Prefect for the Dicastery for Evangelisation and has oversight for our part of the world. With few notes, he addressed us personally as a wise pastor. He used the metaphor of an outdated map, which can leave us feeling more lost, wondering where to go and who to follow. We do well to remember our heritage, to reflect on the early Church. They did not have maps, they only had “the way,” Jesus. They were actively persecuted by the state and many were rejected by their families. They were reliant on the Spirit of Jesus guiding them. Cardinal Tagle reassured us that we do not have to have all the answers for every challenge. What is central is knowing who we are and more importantly, whose we are. We are never alone, Christ is always with us.
An Audience with Pope Francis
While in Rome we, as bishops, had the incredible opportunity to join in an audience with Pope Francis. He came to us in a noticeably frail condition, which is understandable for a man of 85 years. When he spoke to us of the importance of proclaiming the Gospel, of having an active relationship with Jesus, his face lit up and his voice grew stronger. He was insistent that we constantly seek a deeper conversion to Christ, find new ways to personally encounter Christ, and generously share that relationship with others. We received the blessing of the Holy Father and were sent back on our mission to our dioceses.
Ablaze Renewal Conference in November
I recommend the Ablaze Parish Renewal conference as one way of deepening our conversion. It is an opportunity to gather as a diocesan Church, strengthen our personal faith, and learn from others. I pray we can all take some heart from Pope Francis, who continues to grow in his relationship with Christ and joyfully shares the Gospel, even at the age of 85.
The Traffic Light System
We have all shared in dealing with the Covid protection framework with its Traffic Light system. I have listened to many people’s experiences of both the Traffic Light system and the effects of the Church’s guidelines. I acknowledge that some of you found our guidelines unsupportive. I am saddened by this but can honestly say we tried our best to respond in the fairest way we could. We now have an opportunity to come together as one. For us as Catholics, the Sunday Eucharist is our privileged opportunity to gather around the altar as Christ’s body. The Mass is the ultimate earthly encounter with Jesus. Sadly, not everyone has yet returned to the Sunday Eucharist. I encourage you to reach out and invite them back. It is important that they know they are missed. Even if people are not ready to return, it is important they know they belong with us and to Christ.
The Eloquence of Queen Elizabeth’s Faith
Queen Elizabeth II was a woman of faith in Jesus Christ, who offered immense service in a time of profound uncertainty and change. I was personally struck by her incredible example of placing service to the UK before her personal needs, right to the end, when discharging her constitutional responsibility to meet with the outgoing and incoming UK prime ministers. Cardinal Dew’s reflection on this theme noted that “in 2016, the New Zealand Bible Society published a wonderful book entitled The Servant Queen and the King she serves. He noted how she often spoke of the parable of the Good Samaritan, and once said: ‘The story of the Good Samaritan reminds us of our duty to our neighbour.’ We should try to follow Christ’s clear instruction at the end of that story – go and do the same yourself.” Pope Francis also reflected on the Queen’s passing, commending “her example of devotion to duty, her steadfast witness of
faith in Jesus Christ, and her firm hope in his promises, to us all.” I join with you in commending her noble soul to the merciful goodness of our heavenly Father.
May God bless you all.
Bishop of Christchurch