New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and agencies

Te Huinga o ngā Pīhopa Katorika o Aotearoa
The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC) is the national body for the bishops of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Conference has a Secretariat located in Wellington, and a number of agencies and offices to assist the bishops in carrying out functions together. The Conference meets four times a year. It has two Commissions, the Commission for the Church and the Commission for the Church in Society, both made up of bishops. The Commissions meet twice a year.

Catholic Māori

“It is as Māori that the Lord calls you, it is as Māori that you belong to the Church, the one body of Christ.”

Pope John Paul II, Auckland, 1986

The visit of Pope St John Paul II to Aotearoa New Zealand in 1986 was a time of great significance for Māori, as he was the first Pope to explicitly recognise their identity within the Church.

The unique identity of the Church in Aotearoa New Zealand within the global Church flows as it always has, from the presence of Māori, who have been part of the Church since the time of Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier. When Bishop Pompallier arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand in 1838 he set about establishing mission stations among Māori in both Te Ika-a-Māui and Te Waipounamu (the North and South Islands). In time, Māori priests were ordained, and worked among their people alongside missionaries from other countries. In 1988, Pā Max Takuira Māriu SM DD CNZM was ordained bishop, fulfilling a long held desire of Māori and the whole Catholic people for a Māori bishop.

When Bishop Māriu died in 2005 at the age of 53 his loss was felt deeply by Māori and the wider Church in Aotearoa New Zealand, iwi, hapu, whānau and by the other bishops.

Te Rūnanga o te Hāhi Katorika ō Aotearoa is the national Māori advisory group appointed by the bishops. It advises the bishops on the pastoral care of Māori. Māori pastoral care is organised in different ways in the six dioceses. Some dioceses have a Vicar for Māori, while others have a Māori chaplaincy, and all have Catholic marae.

There are two Catholic Māori secondary schools, both providing boarding facilities. These colleges have great historical significance, with St Joseph’s Māori Girls College in Napier the first to be established, opening in 1867. Hāto Pāora College in Fielding opened in 1948.


Te Rūnanga o te Hāhi Katorika ō Aotearoa
07 3222 646


“While we journey together toward full communion we can begin already to develop many forms of cooperation in order to favour the spread of the Gospel – and walking together, we become aware that we are already united in the name of the Lord.”

Pope Francis

 “Ecumenism…starts with the conviction that, in the beginning, Christ formed one community which became the the one Church of Jesus Christ. This Church then suffered from any number of divisions throughout its history, so that today there are many churches which would view themselves as more or less in continuity with that original Church of Jesus Christ. The task of the ecumenical movement is to restore that original unity. Consequently ecumenism and the ecumenical movement take very seriously those things which divide churches form one another. If unity in Christ is to be restored, then the obstacles to that unity need to be overcome, whether they are obstacles in faith or order, or sometimes simply social, political and even ethnic factors.”

Bishop Michael Putney, My Ecumenical Journey

The Catholic Church in New Zealand is actively involved in fostering unity among Christians. It does so in a variety of ways:

  • encouraging parishes to have joint services with other churches especially in Lent,
  • participating in the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with other churches
  • working with other churches on social issues, and in prison and hospital chaplaincy
  • participating in formal dialogues with other churches.

The Catholic Bishops Committee for Ecumenism supports the bishops by fostering prayer for Christian unity, promoting understanding of ecumenism, and encouraging ecumenical activities. The Committee also supports the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue, the Methodist-Roman Catholic Dialogue, the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue, and assists the bishops with the National Dialogue for Christian Unity which involves the Anglican, Methodist and Catholic churches of Aotearoa.

Dialogue is not simply an exchange of ideas. In some way it is always an "exchange of gifts".

Ut unum Sint 28

Committee for Ecumenism - members

  • Cardinal John Dew, Chair
  • Anne Dickinson, Secretary

Interfaith Relations

The Church urges her sons and daughters to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of religions. Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths among non-Christians, also their social life and culture.

Pope Paul VI, Nostra Aetate

Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, 1965, n.2

The Catholic Church in New Zealand is committed to strengthening relationships between people of different faiths present in New Zealand. The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC) established the Committee for Interfaith Relations to assist them in their interfaith work. The Committee (pictured here in 2023) is responsible to the NZCBC Commission for the Church in Society and looks to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) for leadership in the field of interfaith relations.


The aim of the Committee is to further understanding, mutual respect and dialogue between Catholics and members of other world religions in New Zealand, and to work with people of other faiths for the good of the whole community. For this reason, the Committee is also registered with the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme.

The Committee provides advice and recommendations to the bishops on relationships with people of other faiths; develops networks with other religious communities; takes part in and encourages New Zealand Catholics to engage in national interfaith dialogue at all levels: national, diocesan and local, and liaises with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

A number of Catholics are involved with national and regional interfaith forums. More information on these and other interfaith events is available on the New Zealand Interfaith Group website.

The New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Interfaith Relations (NZCBCIR) has published this revised booklet Promoting Interfaith Relations in Aotearoa New Zealand - Te Whakatairanga i te Nohotahitanga o ngā Whakapono i Aotearoa


Colin MacLeod (Chair)

c/- NZCBC, 
PO Box 1937
Wellington 6140


“All life has inestimable value even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”

Pope Francis, message to Catholics taking part in annual Day for Life, 2013

Bioethics is the study of the ethical issues arising from scientific advances, especially in biology and medicine. The term “bioethics” originated in the academic world in the early 1970’s, and Catholic bioethics was quick to develop because the Church already had a large body of bioethical thought on a range of issues.

The Catholic Church’s concern for healing, and its longstanding involvement in caring for the sick and dying, means it has a rich tradition of reflection and wisdom to bring to the study of bioethics. Catholic bioethics is distinctive for the way in which it has its foundations both in faith and human reason.

A Catholic approach is underpinned by a strong belief in the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person.

Catholic bioethics seeks to bring the light of the Gospel and the moral tradition of the Catholic Church to issues in bioethics. These issues include cloning, genetic engineering, abortion, euthanasia, stem cells, surrogacy, the allocation of healthcare resources, xenotransplantation and many others.

The Nathaniel Centre for Bioethics is the New Zealand Catholic bishops' bioethics centre and is an agency of Te Kupenga Catholic Leadership Institute. Its key functions are:

  • Offering educational opportunities in bioethics for different groups
  • An advisory and resource centre for individuals, and for educational and community groups
  • Promoting the study and practical resolution of ethical, social and legal issues arising out of medical and scientific research and practice
  • Publishing articles and information on topics in bioethics
  • Carrying out research and taking action to support the Church's pastoral response to bioethical issues in the community
  • Assisting bishops and individuals and groups in New Zealand, and on request, the Catholic dioceses of Oceania


The Nathaniel Centre, PO Box 12243 Thorndon, Wellington 6144
04 499 2251


“The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.. Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful. For in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer.”

Pope Paul VI, Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), 1963, n.10, n.33

The word “liturgy” originally meant a “public work” or “a service in the name of or on behalf of the people”. The liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments.

The celebration of the liturgy is a central activity in all Catholic communities. Liturgical services are celebrations of the Church, not private functions. Parishes will normally have a Liturgy Committee, to assist the priest in managing the celebration of the Eucharist and sacraments in the parish.

Diocesan Liturgy Offices

Dioceses have an office or commission which provides support and training in liturgy for parishes, and to assist the bishop with diocesan liturgical celebrations.

Auckland Diocese:
Judith Courtney

Hamilton Diocese:
Fr Trevor Murray 

Palmerston North Diocese:
Joe Grayland

Wellington Archdiocese:
Fr Patrick Bridgman

Christchurch Diocese:
Marianne Daly;

Dunedin Diocese:
Fr Tony Harrison

National Liturgy Office

The National Liturgy Office is an agency of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, established to assist the bishops collectively in the development of liturgical policies and resources, liturgical catechesis, and the translation of liturgical texts. The National Office is assisted by a group of Liturgy Advisers appointed from across the country by the Bishops Conference.


Fr John O'Connor and Catherine Gibbs, Co-Directors, National Liturgy Office
021 444 179


“All Christians, their pastors included, are called to show concern for the building of a better world. This is essential, for the Church’s social thought is primarily positive: it offers proposals, it works for change and in this sense it constantly points to the hope born of the loving heart of Jesus Christ.”

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium

Justice is one of the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance). These virtues are pivotal in the commitment to follow Christ, because they dispose us to do good in relation to ourselves and in our relationships with others. The virtues grow through education, through choosing to act in ways which foster or reflect the virtues, and by perseverance. Working for justice is a core component of following Christ.

Injustice at the global level has national and local effects which are experienced by people who struggle to survive and reach their full potential against huge disadvantage. Injustice is often at the heart of conflict and wars, so work for justice is often also work for peace.

Social Encyclicals and the Principles of Catholic Social Teaching

The teaching of the Church on social issues has been developed by different popes in a series of social encyclicals, beginning with Rerum Novarum written by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, and extending through to the present day. These encyclicals examine social problems of their time, and are the source of Catholic Social Teaching. This teaching of the Catholic Church on social matters is often summarised as The Principles of Catholic Social Teaching. The principles provide a framework for analysis and action in situations of injustice.

Social Justice organisations

MISSIONZ is the New Zealand branch of the Pontifical Mission Societies which raises funds to support the Church in mission countries.

In dioceses there are Diocesan Justice and Peace Commissions or offices which advocate on national and global issues of justice and peace. In some parishes there are Social Action groups. 

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is an agency of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference to work for justice and peace locally and globally, and to support development work in countries throughout the world. Caritas Aotearoa is a member of the worldwide Caritas Confederation which enables the justice, peace and development organisations of Bishops Conferences to work together across the globe. Caritas also manages Catholic volunteering overseas providing skilled volunteers to assist the Church in developing countries (primarily in Oceania) to carry out its mission and its work in areas such as education, health and development.

MISSIONZ, PO Box 43226, Lower Hutt 5048
04 472 2210
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, 22-30 Hill St, Thorndon, Wellington 6144
04 496 1742


“Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.”

Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Catholic Educators at the Catholic University of America, 2008, n.2

The first Catholic School in New Zealand was opened in 1841, shortly after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. It was the beginning of the development of a Catholic education system which now has 191 primary and 49 secondary schools, with around 64,000 students currently enrolled.

Catholic schools are state integrated. The government funds the operational costs of the schools, while the Catholic proprietors (bishops and religious orders) own the land and buildings. Integrated schools are able to preserve their special character, which is of vital importance to Catholic schools.

New Zealand Catholic Education Office

The New Zealand Catholic Education Office is the office of the New Zealand Council of Proprietors of Catholic Integrated Schools. It also serves the educational requirements of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference. It assists the Conference and the proprietors of Catholic integrated schools in their mission of providing Catholic education.

National Centre for Religious Studies

Diocesan Education Offices support the early childhood centres, primary and secondary schools in their diocese.

The National Centre for Religious Studies (NCRS) is an agency of Te Kupenga Catholic Leadership Institute. NCRS is responsible for religious education programmes and resources and professional development for Catholic teachers. It also provides Faith Education programmes for adults. 

Te Kupenga Catholic Leadership Institute

Te Kupenga is the home of three national agencies: the Catholic Theological College, responsible for providing approved tertiary qualifications; the National Centre for Religious Studies, responsible for supporting religious education in Catholic schools and adult faith formation; and the Nathaniel Centre for Bioethics, responsible for research and advocacy on bioethical issues.

The Catholic Education of School-Age Children

In February 2014 The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference published the Catholic Education of School-Age Children document about our Catholic education system. In it, the Bishops have set out their thoughts about the system, the principles which should underpin its operation, and their concerns and hopes for the young people who move through it. Copies have been distributed to every Catholic School and is available here.

FaithCentral is a Religious Education resource website for students and teachers of Catholic Secondary Schools and Colleges in Aotearoa - New Zealand

The Bishops’ document draws on recent doctoral research into the Catholic identity of a sample of Pakeha New Zealand young adult Catholics. A copy of the relevant doctoral thesis is available for download (PDF, 1,729 KB)


“We are called by the Gospel to share our faith with others but our witness must be authentic. The rediscovery of our own faith is the precondition for making Christ known, because faith alive is the only witness that will be heard in a society which has not understood the Christian story, or has not yet heard it."  

New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, Faith Alive, 1999

Evangelising means bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to others, and through its effects, transforming and renewing society. In its broadest sense evangelization encompasses any activity which helps deepen the faith of others even if they are already members of the Church.

Evangelisation proposes the Good News to others; it does not impose. Evangelisation is first of all about the kind of person we are and how we live our lives as followers of Jesus Christ.

There are moments in people’s lives when they experience a feeling that there may be more to life than they have realised. This may be a sense that there are bigger questions needing attention than those posed by daily routine, or it may be a moment in which the transcendent dimension of life is experienced. These moments are openings to God, and often lead people to search further. Catholics individually and collectively need to be available to those who are searching. These seekers may have no religious background; but they may also be Catholics who have given up the practice of their faith.

Catholic Enquiry Centre

The Catholic Enquiry Centre responds to the questions of those who are searching for God, whatever their background. The Centre receives most of its queries by telephone, email from around New Zealand. Those who are searching or inquiring receive a non-coercive and confidential response which respects their situation. Catholics are encouraged to support the Centre in this work. 


MISSIONZ is the New Zealand branch of the Pontifical Mission Societies and assists the Church in its mission of evangelisation by supporting dioceses in the developing world. The contributions from the worldwide Pontifical Mission Societies are vital in helping these dioceses carry out the pastoral care of their people.


Catholic Enquiry Centre, PO Box 6343, Wellington 6141
0800 FATHER (0800 328 437)
MISSIONZ, PO Box 43226, Lower Hutt 5048
04 472 2210

Ordained Ministry

In Baptism we receive a calling which enables and obliges us to seek holiness, worship God and serve others. Baptism incorporates us into the Church and makes us participants in its mission. All the baptised share in the one priesthood of Christ and in the common priesthood of all believers.

Among the baptised some are called to the ministerial priesthood as deacons, priests and bishops. Those called to the ministerial priesthood receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and are consecrated for the service of all the baptised and the building up of the Church. Those who receive Holy Orders live a celibate life and have a special obligation to pray and seek holiness.

A priest proclaims the Gospel, is the minister of the sacraments, teaches the faith and works to build up the local faith community. A diocesan priest works within a particular geographical area called a diocese, usually in a parish, as the co-worker of the local bishop who leads the diocese. A religious priest takes vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to the superior of the religious order, and works in the mission of the order. Religious and diocesan priests may also serve as chaplains to prisons, hospitals, schools, universities and other institutions.


A seminarian is undergoing the formation and training needed to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders. There are two seminaries in Aotearoa New Zealand, both in Auckland, which prepare men for priesthood. [link]

A Vocation to the Priesthood

Each diocese has a Vocations Director who assists those who are considering a vocation to priesthood.

Auckland Diocese

Fr Sherwin Lapaan
Ph: (09) 303 4509

Wellington Archdiocese

Fr David Dowling
Ph: (04) 383 8625

Hamilton Diocese

Fr Eamon Kennedy 
Ph: (07) 348 0289 

Palmerston North Diocese

Fr Simon Story 
Ph: (06) 878 7774 

Christchurch Diocese

Fr John C O’Connor 
Ph: (03) 319 8730 

Dunedin Diocese

Fr Mark Chamberlain 
Ph: (03) 479 0066 

“Support your priests with your love and your prayers that they may always be shepherds after Christ’s heart.”

– Pope Francis

Confronting Abuse

“...we acknowledge with deep sadness and regret that a number of clergy and religious have sexually abused children, adolescents and adults who have been in their pastoral care. To these victims we offer our sincere apology.”

New Zealand Catholic Bishops, A Path to Healing - Te Houhanga Rongo.

Abuse can be sexual, physical or emotional. The Church takes reports of all forms of abuse seriously. Criminal sexual or physical abuse is a matter for the police to investigate. If the victim or survivor chooses to report the abuse to Police, the Church will cooperate with the civil law processes and will provide the known facts to the authorities. The Church encourages the victim or survivor to report criminal allegations to Police and will support them in doing so.

A protocol for dealing with complaints of abuse was established by the bishops in 1993 called A Path to Healing, Te Houhanga Rongo (APTH). This document was initially published in 2007 and revised in 2010.  It is currently undergoing a new revision, which will be published on this site once completed. The Church is indebted to those who have come forward, and encourages others who have experienced abuse to do the same.

The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC) and Congregation Leaders Conference of Aotearoa New Zealand (CLCANZ) work together through the Mixed Commission and it is this body which has the responsibility for APTH.  Revised versions have been documented, with the latest version published in 2010. There have been more recently approved changes to APTH.  Those changes are not reflected in the published version, but form part of a revision process which is currently underway.


In May 2000 the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference adopted 'Integrity in Ministry' as its official statement of Professional Standards for Clergy and Institutes of Consecrated Life in the six dioceses of New Zealand.

The Catholic Church in New Zealand has many lay employees and volunteers, and the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference adopted 'Standards for Volunteers and Employees in Ministry' in August 2008. This document is currently being revised and the new edition will be published on this website.

National Office for Professional Standards

The bishops and congregational leaders established the National Office for Professional Standards (NOPS) to oversee the response to complaints of abuse. Virginia Noonan is the Director of the National Office for Professional Standards. Since 2009, the role of the National Office for Professional Standards has included oversight of all complaints from the time the complaint is made, through the independent investigation and conclusion. If a review of process is later requested this will be carried out by an independent person, not the National Office for Professional Standards.  For the most up-to-date guidelines visit Guidelines for the prevention of and response to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand

Reporting Abuse

If you, or someone you know has been abused by a Catholic priest or member of a religious congregation, we urge you to seek counselling and healing. You do not have to report the abuse to the Church, but if you do the Church will take your story seriously – even if you prefer to remain anonymous, and even if the abuse happened many years ago. Your call will be taken with sensitivity and confidentiality.


Virginia Noonan, National Office for Professional Standards
+ 64 3365 1993

Tribunal of the Catholic Church for New Zealand

“The Church's teaching on the indissolubility and fidelity of marriage needs to be seen alongside her teaching on the need for compassion and understanding towards those in any kind of difficulty”

New Zealand Catholic Bishops, When Dreams Die, 1982

The Tribunal of the Catholic Church is the official ecclesiastical court of the Church. In every Diocese, it is usually established by the bishop to assist him in carrying out his responsibilities as the shepherd of his local Christian community which has been entrusted to him. By the authority of the local bishop, the court administers justice, vindicates rights and assists in the pastoral care of the people of the diocese.

A major function of the Tribunal is to process declaration of nullity cases, meaning inquiring as to whether the marriage is binding for life or not according to the laws of the Catholic Church. Whenever Catholics or non-Catholics have been previously married, this process must be done to establish whether they may enter into a new marriage in the Catholic Church or not. Thus, it assists the person by finding if a declaration of nullity might be possible. The Tribunal uses both the administrative and judicial procedures outlined in the Church's Code of Canon Law to determine the nullity of a marriage.

The New Zealand Bishops' Conference decided in 1987 to have the Tribunal of the Catholic Church established nationally for all cases including penal trials, declarations of nullity and cases of 


vindication of rights provided in canon law. Penal trials are conducted in accordance with church law for example, especially when crimes have been committed by clergy, religious and lay members.

When considering whether a marriage is eligible for annulment, Tribunal staff members are not interested in deciding “who is to blame”, but in finding out if there are factors that could make a marriage invalid in canon law. A marriage annulment in the Catholic Church is not the same as a civil divorce. It does not affect the legal status of children, nor influence a civil court to set or change terms of civil divorce. However, it does allow spouses to marry again in the Catholic Church.

Each of New Zealand's six dioceses has a Tribunal office.

The Diocese of Christchurch has excellent material posted online about the Tribunal's work.

Go here for a PDF of the Application Pack for a Declaration of Nullity of a Marriage from the Tribunal of the Catholic Church in New Zealand. The relevant contact addresses for each diocese are at the back of the pack.


Contact the Tribunal Office in your diocese

Youth and the Church

"I would like my words to be a source of renewed hope for you. In today’s world, marked by so many conflicts and so much suffering, I suspect many of you feel disheartened. So together with you, I would like to set out from the proclamation that is the basis of our hope and that of all humanity: 'Christ is alive'!”

Pope Francis, March 2024

The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC) has tasked the Council for Young People to work with the Church and young Catholics in developing a national vision for Catholic ministry with young people, implementing national projects and working with dioceses and all faith communities in achieving this. The Council will be guided in its work by scripture, policies set by the NZCBC, in addition to consultation with Te Rūnanga o Te Hāhi Katorika ō Aotearoa to deepen bi-cultural understandings.  

New Zealand’s Voice to Vatican survey for Young New Zealanders held in 2017 received almost 2000 responses from throughout the country.  

Bishop John Adams, who liaises with the Council for the NZ Bishops Conference, describes the Council “as an exciting step in working towards greater support for young people, their families and their faith communities. We are working

with the council during a time of particular focus for the Church on young people and enabling them on their faith journey.”

There is a significant effort on the international stage by Pope Francis to better understand the lives, attitudes and concerns of young people around the world. Following the October 2018 Synod on Young people, Faith and Vocational Discernment in Rome, Pope Francis in April 2019 issued his Christus Vivit (Christ is Alive) apostolic exhortation to young people, marking it with an anniversary letter in March 2024.  And after World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, the next World Youth Day will take place in Seoul in 2027.

Nick Wilson of Palmerston North is the current chair of the Council for Young People. To learn more about the initiatives and work of the Council for Young People please visit their website.



Council for Young People Chair, Nick Wilson