Pope Francis quotes NZ Catholic Bishops

Pope Francis quotes NZ Bishops in his latest apostolic exhortation

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Pope Francis has included a quotation from a 30-year-old statement of the New Zealand Bishops in his latest Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate: on the call to holiness in today’s world.

The quotation is taken from the New Zealand Bishops’s statement Healing Love – In support of Married People and Divorced Catholics, which the New Zealand bishops issued in 1988.

In the first chapter [#18] of the exhortation the pope writes:

The New Zealand bishops rightly teach us that we are capable of loving with the Lord’s unconditional love, because the risen Lord shares his powerful life with our fragile lives:

“His love set no limits and, once given, was never taken back. It was unconditional and remained faithful.

“To love like that is not easy because we are often so weak. But just to try to love as Christ loved us shows that Christ shares his own risen life with us.

“In this way, our lives demonstrate his power at work – even in the midst of human weakness”.

It is not the first time Pope Francis has made reference to New Zealand is his formal documents.

In his encyclical Laudato Si’ [#95], published in 2016, he made reference to the New Zealand Catholic bishops who had asked what the Christian commandment “thou shalt not kill” could mean when “20 percent of the world’s population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive.”

That came from a New Zealand bishops’ Statement on Environmental Issues in 2006.

Philip Matthews writing for Stuff noted the quotation would have been discovered as the Pope started his research.

“To be fair, bishops from many other places were quoted too. New Zealand Cardinal John Dew sees it as indicative of a new, more open leadership style,” Matthews said

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Thanks to ‘CathNewsNZ’ for this latest news from Rome, where the Pope uses a quotation from the New Zealand Roman Catholic Bishops’ statement about the Healing Power of God’s Love: ‘In support of Married People and Divorced Catholics, which the New Zealand bishops issued in 1988’.

That the New Zealand Catholic Church should have been ahead of Rome’s traditional understanding of the needs of divorced and remarried Catholics in reaching out to such people should not surprise us. Even as long ago as 1988 – when the NZ Bishops’ statement was originally issued – there were divorced and remarried Catholics (as well as those of other Churches, including our own Anglican Church) wondering whether or not they had been forgotten by the Church – as a ‘lost cause’. Also, the matter of artificial contraception seems to have been dealt with more readily, perhaps, by the effective polity of ignoring its proliferation in the local Catholic community. It may be that Pope Francis will have to deal with this issue, in order to restore a more cohesive integrity to pastoral outreach to married couples in the world of today.

The reasons for the tragedy of divorce are multiple – not least of which are the stresses of modern life – with the rise of a women’s need to work to support the family – and the compatibility of partners who may have different views on family planning – providing just some of the reasons why couples are living separate lives and, in many cases, seeking new relationships which militate against the stability of a normal family life. Whether Churches are sympathetic to such hopeful attempts to establish new marriage partnerships or not, there remains the inevitable problem of how one deals pastorally and sensitively with such situations – in ways that will deal more effectively with the reality of our broken world. (“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” – Scripture)

Pope Francis’ openness to people on the margins of the Church – though causing scandal to some of his severest conservative critics in the Vatican as well as the Catholic diaspora – signals to the outside world that he is intent on bringing the Church up to date on matters of pragmatic urgency for the restoration of a viable faith in the God who, in Christ, sought to redeem a broken world – not by judgement but by the purest of loving concern. This was demonstrated most clearly in his life-giving ministry to the outcast, the sick and lowly of Jesus’ day – in a way that was criticised by the religious authorities as being too liberal, and for which Jesus was put to death by those same authorities. 

However, there have been, down the ages since the death and resurrection of Christ a line of Saints who have been called by God (and made it their life’s work) to care for and nurture the neglected and the poor of society – in a way that kindled faith in the prospect of redemption offered by God through the Body of Christ, the Church. Pope Francis is one such ‘Santo‘, whose dedication is to bring the perfect Love of God into the world for which Christ died – by the expedient of facilitating the charisms of forgiveness and mercy to all.

Christ has died, Alleluia! Christ is risen, Allelluia! Christ will come again, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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