Kia Ora! Greetings from New Zealand / Aeotora. I am at the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania in Wellington for the four-yearly meeting of all the bishops of Oceania.
Last night we were given a pōwhiri or ceremonial welcome by the local Maoris. There were many speeches, songs (we sung the Salve Regina and the Pater Noster in reply to the Maori songs). As is the custom, noses were pressed and hands shook, followed by Mass in Sacred Heart Cathedral and then a hākari (feast). There is a very strong sense of the Church of the Pacific amongst us and even the tiniest island nations have their bishop or administrator here.
Today Bishop Eugene Hurley of Darwin led a very moving discussion of Australian refugee policy and off-shore detention centres on Pacific islands. The bishops of places such as Manus Island and Nauru also spoke about the impacts on their communities. There was a strong sense that Australia’s present policy is cruel and that we could do much better. This confirmed the Australian bishops’ statement of last week. As Jesus challenges us in the Gospel of Matthew, When I was a stranger did you welcome me? (Mt 25:35)
I attended an interesting workshop analysing all the evidence about Gen Y and how connected / disconnected they are from the Church. Good discussion of what works in bringing them closer to Christ, his sacraments and his community. St John Paul would be pleased!