At this time, when we reflect on Christ’s suffering, it is appropriate that we also remember the devastation experienced by so many in our country. We especially recall the loss of human life after the flooding in Auckland and Northland, and the devastating impact of Cyclone Gabrielle on the upper North Island and the East Coast. I have been moved by your many reflections on your own experience of collective suffering through the earthquakes twelve years ago. You understand what it is like to walk the road to Calvary uncertain of what the future holds. I am particularly struck by your generosity to our appeals in
support of our Northern whanau. Please continue to keep these communities in prayer. Let us pray this Easter for an outpouring of grace for our family and friends in the flooded areas of the North Island.
The Spiritual Benefits of Holy Week
The season of Lent and Holy Week is the highlight of our year. We are invited to journey with Jesus as he enters Jerusalem. In total obedience, Christ offers Himself on the Cross, trusting that God will not abandon him. Holy Week is an opportunity to step back from our normal schedules and reflect on the central truths of our faith: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
In his Lenten Message, Pope Francis encourages each of us to take time to be alone with Jesus, to journey with him during these days. He prays that the Holy Spirit may “inspire and sustain us this Lent in our ascent with Jesus, so that we may experience his divine splendour and thus, confirmed in faith, persevere in our journey together with him, glory of his people and light of the nations”.
Pope Francis reminds us that “We need the crucified and risen Lord so that we can believe in the victory of love, and hope for reconciliation. Today, more than ever, we need him to stand in our midst and repeat to us: “Peace be with you.” Only He can do it.”
Meeting of Federation of Bishops of Oceania
In early February, I had the privilege of gathering with the bishops from Oceania. The Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania brings together the Bishops’ Conferences of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. It also enfolds the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific, which includes the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna. We
meet every four years for an assembly and this year it was held in Suva, Fiji.
At the conclusion of the Assembly, the Bishops produced a statement that clearly summed up our time together. The assembly provided an opportunity for the bishops to pray together, to build fraternal relationships, learn from one another, and consider common pastoral challenges. The delays caused by the COVID19 pandemic meant we especially cherished this chance to gather. Our assembly focused on three themes: “Care for the oceans, Becoming a more synodal Church, and Formation for mission.”
With the ongoing worldwide Synodal process under way, a big part of our conference was to more deeply discuss the “path to which Pope Francis has called the whole Church …a church of hospitality, encounter, and dialogue with the realities of peoples’ lives in Oceania today.” The third theme focused on Formation for Mission. Together we discussed that “the service of mission has several dimensions: the witness of life; explicit proclamation of the Gospel; conversion; entry into and growth within the Christian community; and becoming an agent of evangelisation oneself”. The discussions around this were timely as we continue to “launch out into the deep” and surrender everything to Jesus. I found this time with the Bishops to be one of grace and deep conversion. From Fiji, I went to Sydney for the final part of the Divine Renovation Conference. Nearly 20 people from this diocese attended and joined 500 others focusing on parish renewal through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I wish you all a very blessed Easter. While we will all journey with Jesus to Calvary, we know this is not the last word. He is then resurrected, calling his disciples to new life. We are a people of the resurrection and we must always look to the hope that Christ offers to all of us, even in times of suffering and natural disasters.
I pray each of you will experience deep peace and joy in our risen Lord as we look to the Easter season.
Yours in Christ’s service.
+ Michael Gielen
Bishop of Christchurch