New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference Statement on Building Community

20 Jun 2017 | JUSTICE

 “Weave bonds of belonging and togetherness… into an experience of community in which the walls of the ego are torn down and the barriers of selfishness overcome.”

Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, 2015 

The Maori art of raranga (weaving) is a powerful symbol of the relationships we weave with each other. The work of weaving the relationships of our lives began while we were still within our mother’s womb, that nurturing place where God first breathed life into us. This nurturing weaving of belonging and togetherness grows to include family, whanau, neighbours, friends and our wider community in and with the God of love who made us and who calls us into his likeness.

God has created us to be people in community as a reflection of the ‘community’ of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is within family, hapu, iwi, within and through community, that we grow and become more fully the people God created us to be, together, a people woven with the bonds of belonging and togetherness.

The Maori word for land, whenua, also means placenta. After a child is born the placenta is buried at the child’s home marae. This beautiful insight of Maori spirituality reminds us of the relationship that God weaves between us and the land, the earth, our common home that is God’s gift to us for the growth and well-being of all in our communities.

At this time, our families and communities are facing a multitude of challenges. Pope Francis wrote of the social dimensions of global change in his encyclical letter Laudato Si’. Among others, he cited the effects of technological innovations on employment, an inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and other services, social breakdown, increased violence, growing drug use, and the loss of identity as major areas of concern.

We can include many other issues from our local context that add to the challenges our families and communities face. “These are signs,” Pope Francis says, “that the growth of the past two centuries has not always led to an integral development and an improvement in the quality of life. Some of these signs are also symptomatic of real social decline, the silent rupture of the bonds of integration and social cohesion” (LS 46).

But we are “able to weave bonds of belonging and togetherness” (LS 149). This is the challenge Pope Francis makes to us as individuals, as the Christian community, and to the community at large. He calls us “into an experience of community in which the walls of the ego are torn down and the barriers of selfishness overcome”.

The social cohesion Pope Francis speaks of results from the respect people have for each other that arises from seeking the common good for all, especially the most vulnerable in our communities, regardless of our differences. To achieve this, Saint Pope John Paul II reminded us that we need to look to the needs of our neighbour with a commitment to work for their good, “with the readiness, in the gospel sense, to ‘lose oneself’ for the sake of the other.” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, #38). In this way, we can work together to weave a community that confronts the social issues facing our society today.

How can we do this? In Aotearoa New Zealand there are people in families who live isolated lives or whose lives are marked by struggles and challenges. There might be people new to your community. A scholar of the law asked Jesus “Who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29). A caring community is one who looks for the needs of those within the community. It is one that brings hope and warmth to those who are socially isolated or dislocated from meaningful relationships. It is one that weaves people’s lives together and opens opportunities for enriching our lives, our families and our communities.

Already we see and applaud the efforts of so many in our communities who work directly to improve the wellbeing of people and families.  In this Social Justice week, we once again encourage all Church communities to look to the new needs in your wider community and come up with one or two initiatives to weave the bonds of communion within your community.

There is a Maori whakatauki (proverb) that says: Na to rourou, na taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi. With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive. May we be those woven rourou (food baskets) so that we, with God’s help, may be weavers of communities of belonging and togetherness in our beautiful God-given land with its rich diversity of people.


X Bishop Patrick Dunn

Bishop of Auckland

President, NZCBC



X Cardinal John Dew

Archbishop of Wellington

Vice President, NZCBC


X Bishop Charles Drennan

Bishop of Palmerston North

Secretary, NZCBC


X Bishop Steve Lowe

Bishop of Hamilton


X Bishop Colin Campbell

Bishop of Dunedin


Fr Rick Loughnan


Diocese of Christchurch



Released 20 June 2017