At the end of their ad limina visits, Pope Benedict XVI told the bishops of New Zealand and the Pacific that the Christian faith provides the best foundation for society, and that promoting the New Evangelization is the best way to build a Christian culture.
Gathered with the bishops in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, the Pope acknowledged the challenge the bishops faced by the secularism characteristic of their societies.
It is “a reality that has a significant impact on the understanding and practice of the Catholic faith. This is seen specifically in a weakened appreciation for the sacred nature of Christian marriage and the stability of the family,” he said. “Yet we know that, ultimately, Christian faith provides a surer basis for life than the secular vision; for “it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of humanity truly becomes clear” (Gaudium et Spes, 22).
The Holy Father then spoke of the recently established Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, an effort to re-evangelize countries that were once Christian but have become secularized.
“The New Evangelization is not an abstract concept but a renewal of authentic Christian living based on the teachings of the Church,” said the Holy Father. “You, as Bishops and Pastors, are called to be protagonists in formulating this response according to local needs and circumstances in your various countries and among your peoples. By strengthening the visible bonds of ecclesial communion, build among yourselves an ever stronger sense of faith and charity, so that those whom you serve, in their turn, may imitate your charity and be ambassadors of Christ both in the Church and in the civil arena”.
He encouraged the bishops to have “a special care” for their priests.
“Be a father who guides them on the path to holiness, so that their lives may also attract others to follow Christ. We know that good, wise and holy priests are the best promoters of vocations to the priesthood. With the confidence that comes from faith, we can say that the Lord is still calling men to the priesthood, and you are aware that encouraging them to consider dedicating their lives fully to Christ is among your top priorities,” he said.
He went on to acknowledge “the significant contribution to the spread of the Gospel” made by men and women religious and the lay faithful, which he said is essential since the Lord does not expect pastors “to undertake by themselves the entire saving mission of the Church” (Lumen Gentium, 30).
On behalf of the Bishops of CEPAC (Pacific Islands) and the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop John Dew addressed the Holy Father and thanked him for his leadership of the Church today.
In his address, Archbishop Dew explained that New Zealand, in particular, has become a very secular country and that both New Zealand and the Pacific Islands have suffered economically over recent years.
“There are many pressures on individuals and families. We are pleased to say that both Conferences are aided by our clergy and our close collaborators – our Catholic Schools. We all try to counteract secularism by encouraging our Catholic people to be a true leaven in society”.
“The Churches in our countries are young and vital, they are Churches which continue to search for ways to grow in holiness, and to find new ways to live and preach the Gospel, he said. “We are all responding to the challenge of the New Evangelization and preparing to celebrate the Year of Faith, which we see as a wonderful opportunity to preach the Gospel anew”.
He spoke of World Youth Day in Sydney as being one of the highlights for the New Zealand Church since the last ad limina visit in 2004. “The highpoint of the week for all was the Vigil and the Mass celebrated by you. We thank you for your presence in Sydney and for your inspirational ministry to our young people,” he said to the Holy Father.
“The canonization of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop was celebrated as much throughout New Zealand and the Pacific as it was in Australia. St Mary of the Cross had visited New Zealand and lived there for some time; her Sisters have worked and are working in many of our jurisdictions,” said Archbishop Dew.
“It is the fervent hope of all of us that the Cause for Beatification of Suzanne Aubert, the Foundress of New Zealand’s only indigenous religious Order – the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion- will be progressed through the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. She is known and revered throughout New Zealand and the Pacific as she was among the first Missionaries to come to our part of the world. She is remembered for her life and sanctity and for her unstinting care of the Maori people. We pray for her Beatification”.
During their ad limina the New Zealand bishops met with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to discuss the Cause for the Beatification of Suzanne Aubert. Archbishop Dew said the Congregation was pleased with the progress that has been made and explained that Pope Benedict XVI is particularly interested in the Congregation’s investigating and promoting Causes from non-European countries.
The bishops discussed the new translation of the Missal with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. “The Congregation was particularly interested to hear about the bilingual aspect of New Zealand’s translation of the Missal and appreciated the effort taken to do this,” said Archbishop Dew.
During their meeting with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the bishops spoke about the importance of reinforcing the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and how next year will present a special opportunity to do this as it marks the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. Next year will also mark 20 years since Catechism of the Catholic Church was introduced.
Archbishop Dew said many people were interested in The Catholic Institute of Aotearoa New Zealand and expressed the necessity of having opportunities for greater learning about the faith, what it means to belong to the Church, and ecclesiology and Christology.
At the Mass with CEPAC at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, Bishop Peter Cullinane of Palmerston North delivered the homily in which he used the words of St Paul to appeal to those present to have the “minds of Christ”.
Archbishop Dew said the most prominent theme throughout the ad limina visit was the New Evangelization.
“All congregations emphasised the New Evangelization and expressed the importance of taking every opportunity to preach the gospel – not just to those who have not heard it, but also to the baptised who need to hear it again,” said Archbishop Dew.
“Some suggestions for achieving this included priests’ taking special care with homilies and ensuring the language used speaks to people today. The message was very clear - the New Evangelization is about creating a stronger Catholic identity in those who are baptised and a deeper sense of what it means to belong to the Church today”.