One Body in Christ

2 December 2019

On Tuesday 5 November, within days of returning from Rome where the New Zealand bishops met with Pope Francis, Cardinal John Dew visited the Diocese of Palmerston North. The purpose was to meet with diocesan staff and priests to discuss the interim and future leadership for the diocese following the resignation of Bishop Charles Drennan in October.

Cardinal John also joined Bishop Peter Cullinane, Bishop Owen Dolan and Monsignor Brian Walsh to concelebrate midday Mass for parishioners at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, with the support of several priests from the diocese.

Earlier in the morning Diocesan Centre staff formally welcomed Cardinal John. Korty Wilson, Kaiwhakarite Māori Apostolate Co-ordinator, Tony Murphy, General Manager, and Nick Wilson, Young Catholics Team Leader, led the welcome. After an exchange of greetings and waiāta Cardinal John addressed the group and relayed a message from Pope Francis received during the bishops’ ad limina visit. He said Pope Francis was praying for everyone in the diocese and in Aotearoa New Zealand at this time.

Cardinal John confirmed Pope Francis has appointed him as the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Palmerston North until such time as a new bishop is appointed to lead the diocese. ‘I ask for your prayers in this role,’ he said.

Cardinal John has appointed Monsignor Brian Walsh as Vicar General for the diocese and he has arranged for Fr Joe Grayland to take over the responsibilities of day-to-day administration at this time.

Informal discussions continued over morning tea.

In his homily at midday Mass Cardinal John said, ‘This time last week the New Zealand Bishops spent over an hour sitting and chatting with Pope Francis. It was a real privilege. We talked about the state of the Church in New Zealand and some of the challenges we face. I told him of our sadness at the recent resignation of Bishop Charles as bishop of this diocese.

‘Pope Francis is very calm and peaceful. On a previous visit to Rome, a bishop recalling a similar situation, told me of Pope Francis’ response: “I’m at peace about this, you should be too”. Despite all that is levelled at him, Pope Francis always says, ‘pray for me’. At our bishops’ meeting we responded by telling him that the people of New Zealand are praying for him.

‘Think of Pope Francis’ ability to be calm and peaceful and his plea to others to always be at peace, in relation to Paul’s letter to the Romans we have heard today. Paul said, ‘Though many we are one body in Christ, and individually parts of one another.’ That is really the message Monsignor Brian had on the first page of WelCom in November, ‘Let us go forward together seeking unity and remember our focus is always Jesus Christ.’

Published in WelCom December 2019

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