Pope Francis has appointed Bishop of Hamilton Stephen Lowe as the new Catholic Bishop of Auckland.
The appointment was announced in Rome at midnight New Zealand time.
Bishop Lowe replaces Bishop Pat Dunn, who has served since 1994 and is retiring.
The Diocese of Auckland has almost 40 per cent of New Zealand’s 471,000 Catholics.
"I am humbled at being asked by the Holy Father to be the Bishop of Auckland and the successor of Bishop Pat Dunn, a much loved Bishop,” says Bishop Lowe.
“Auckland is our largest Diocese and our first Diocese. When I look at the bishops who have served Auckland, starting with Bishop Pompallier, they all had the challenges of their time and circumstances. But they also had their own unique gifts and talents and the gifts and talents of the people of God. So I'm looking forward to becoming part of the Diocese of Auckland as we work together for the building of God's kingdom."
Bishop Lowe was ordained as Bishop of Hamilton in February 2015. Born in Hokitika, he was ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Christchurch in his home town at Hokitika in 1996.
He served as the assistant priest in the Mairehau, Ashburton and Greymouth parishes before being appointed parish priest of Timaru North and Chaplain of Roncalli College in 2000. From 2005-2007 he completed a Licence in Spiritual Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
He was appointed to Holy Cross Seminary in Auckland in 2008 where he served as Formation Director until the end of 2014. While based there, he served for a time as Parish Priest of Ponsonby.
Bishop Lowe is the Vice President and Secretary of the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference, and the bishops’ representative on Te Rūnanga o te Hāhi Katorika ō Aotearoa, the Church’s national Māori advisory group. He is also a member of several other bodies including the National Safeguarding and Professional Standards Committee.
Bishop Lowe’s appointment to Auckland means the dioceses of Hamilton, Palmerston North and Christchurch are without bishops pending Pope Francis announcing new appointments.