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· A conversation with Cardinal John Atcherley Dew, Archbishop of Wellington ·

Peripheries of the world but not of the Church. Dressed in the scarlet conferred to him by Pope Francis on 14 February, Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington, sees a special sign in consideration for the small Catholic community that lives in New Zealand and for the entire Pacific region.

In this interview the Cardinal speaks about how the Catholic Church in New Zealand is growing and about the new challenges facing her, including: immigration, climate change, the hospitality of people of different cultures and religions.

You are the fourth Cardinal from New Zealand. How do you interpret Pope Francis’ choice?

My appointment as a Cardinal is a recognition of the Catholic Church in New Zealand and I believe that Pope Francis, in reaching out to smaller churches such as New Zealand and Tonga in the Pacific Islands, is recognizing that the Churches of Oceania do have a contribution to make, that there are issues such as climate change and human trafficking in this part of the world that we are able to speak out on. I believe that Pope Francis is acknowledging that the Church is truly universal by appointing Cardinals from places like New Zealand and Tonga.

Despite it’s relatively small size, the Catholic Church in New Zealand is growing. What role do the laity play?

The Catholic Church in New Zealand is growing. It is growing mostly because of immigration — over the years we have had many waves of immigration, people from Europe after the Second World War, in the 1950s, 60s and continuing people from the Pacific Islands and in recent years many people from Asian countries. However, the laity do also have a great role in evangelization. The Bishops of New Zealand try to emphasise that there is a role for everyone in the Church, and that everyone is called to evangelize. The great Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Paul vi, Evangelii Nuntiandi, and now of course the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis in 2013, Evangelii Gaudium, are helping us to encourage and enthuse people to see that they have a role in evangelizing, that being Catholic means they are to be involved in issues and concerns that affect human society, and that they can speak up for the values that promote human dignity, that they can be involved in helping people to lead a better quality of life, and that we can be very much formed by our Catholic Social Teaching, and that it is the Gospel that brings true joy and peace into our lives.

How are you addressing the challenges of migration?

There are challenges of migration, there are challenges of helping our clergy and our parishes to know that people come to us with particular ways of worship, with particular ways of expressing their devotional life, while at the same time we are trying to welcome them into New Zealand society and what has made New Zealand the country that it is.

Serious concern is growing due to the effects of climate change. Are you paying attention to ecology?

In this part of the world and in many islands of the Pacific the danger of rising sea levels is something which is of great concern. Many Catholics are aware now of the issues to do with ecology, particularly many young people, and our role is to encourage people to be more aware of those issues, and to look for ways to help people to recognize that our whole environment is a gift to us from God and we are charged with the duty of caring for it.

This year the Church is celebrating the Year of Consecrated Life. What is the situation of men and women religious in your diocese?

We have many wonderful people living their consecrated life in our part of the world but this does give us a new opportunity to promote consecrated life and to ask people to reflect on the possibility of a vocation to consecrated life, and it gives us the opportunity to thank those many priests and religious men and women whose consecrated lives had added so much to the Church in New Zealand.

Nicola Gori

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