Creating inclusive and connected communities

New Zealand society is changing, and with it, New Zealand Catholic parishes and communities. Our church communities are being enlivened and invigorated by migrants from the Pacific, Asia, Africa and Europe, while at the same time we continue to value and embrace forms of worship and community life based on the inculturation of the Gospel in Aotearoa New Zealand.

At Pentecost we celebrate the commissioning of the disciples to go forth and embrace all peoples and cultures in the name of Jesus.[1] The very name of our church – Catholic – means universal. Our faith embraces all languages and cultures. This year, for Social Justice Week, we are asking our parish communities to follow the church’s early commitment to the equality of all people and to reconsider practical ways parish communities can live out the church’s ideals of inclusion and respect.

According to the United Nations, there are now almost 200 million international migrants in the world. Today, one in fifty people on earth live outside their home country, while an estimated 25 million have been forcibly displaced within their own countries. In New Zealand, one in five of us were born overseas. Migration is a shared experience of people regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, occupation or religion.[2]

There are both blessings and tensions arising out of the growing number of different groups which are transforming the cultural identity of the church in Aotearoa New Zealand. Sometimes members of the dominant culture feel under threat from newer arrivals, who may bring new languages and forms of religious expression into our communities.

We share the concern expressed by Pope Benedict however that Catholic parishes remain unified, even while we celebrate increasing diversity. So while accommodating the different needs of the diverse communities who make up the Catholic church in Aotearoa New Zealand, we have asked parish councils to also examine how well each of our parish communities is doing in reflecting the changing face of our church.

Diversity enriches our communities and should be seen as a source of blessing and peace. Understanding our differences can enrich our common humanity. This is the ideal we wish to be working towards, recognising the unique contribution cultural differences can make to the common good. Openness to understanding our different cultural heritages will help eliminate prejudice.

It is our hope that through Social Justice Week materials produced by Caritas and special formation material prepared for Parish Pastoral Councils, our community will be better equipped to embrace a future which brings together the best of the traditions of Maori, Pakeha and all our new arrivals”.

New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, 2010