Christchurch bishop Paul Martin appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Wellington
Saturday, January 2nd, 2021
Pope Francis has appointed the Bishop of Christchurch, Paul Martin SM, as the Coadjutor Archbishop of Wellington. The appointment was announced in Rome overnight and comes into effect immediately.
Archbishop of Wellington, Cardinal John Dew says he is delighted with the appointment, which comes at a time of a heavy workload in the Wellington Diocese.“He is well known to clergy and many people of the diocese, and will be warmly welcomed by all,” says Dew. “I am fully confident that he will lead the diocese into the future with new vision and energy.”
As a coadjutor archbishop with papal appointment, Archbishop Martin is a collaborator with Dew in the governance of a diocese, with authority to substitute for Dew in his absence and a right to automatic succession upon Dew’s death, resignation, or transfer. (Canon 403).
On May 5, 2021, Dew turns 73, and at age 75 is required by Canon Law to submit his resignation to the Pope.
The appointment came as a surprise to Martin.
“I will be sorry to leave the diocese of Christchurch and the work we have been doing. However it is a privilege to take up this role in the Church of Wellington and I look forward to being with the people in the Archdiocese again,” he said in a statement from Catholic Communications.
Martin will maintain his southern connection by acting as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Christchurch until the Pope appoints a new bishop. Born in Hastings in 1967, as a Marist priest, Martin worked in several New Zealand dioceses and for a short while in Rome as Bursar General for the Society of Mary.
However, when consecrated Bishop of Christchurch Martin said, “I am no longer a wandering religious, Christchurch is my home”. Once he got his ‘feet under the desk’, Martin developed a reputation for tackling big jobs and made the decision to demolish the earthquake-damaged Catholic cathedral in Christchurch and as part of a $500m “North of the Square” development, build a new cathedral in the centre of the city adjacent to Victoria Square.
At the time Martin called the new development a community and commercial collaboration between the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch, Crown regeneration company Ōtākaro Limited and big-city developers, the Carter Group. The decision to demolish the cathedral and re-site it in the middle of the city is still seen as controversial by some.
An editorial in The Press agreed “the loss of the magnificent Barbadoes St basilica will be mourned” but adds ” its remoteness from city life, will not.” Then, faced with a shortage of clergy, in another significant decision, Martin decided to adopt a five “super-parish” model for Christchurch city parishes.
Criticised by some, for the way he made the super-parish decision, Martin said he took on board the concerns to the proposed changes but that after consultation with the people he thought most people were prepared to step into the new era.“I believe there is a majority support and enthusiasm for the proposal outlined and a clear direction has emerged,” he said.
In a statement on Christchurch Catholic website, Archbishop Paul asks that the people of Christchurch keep him in their prayers as he will keep the diocese in his. Martin’s appointment leaves two dioceses, Palmerston North and now Christchurch without a diocesan bishop.The Palmerston North diocese has been without a bishop since October 4, 2019, and it took nearly two years before Martin’s appointment to Christchurch.
Bishop Paul Martin must have been as surprised as anyone to hear of his designated move from Christchurch to become the Coadjutor Archbishop of Wellington.
It must by now be obvious that Bishop Paul has been considered by Pope Francis to be one of the more gifted among the Roman Catholic bishops in Aotearoa/New Zealand – to have translated him from his recent appointment to lead the Christchurch Diocese. In the short time of Bishop Paul’s residence in Christchurch, he has had to deal with the daunting prospect of having to close parishes, and to facilitate the demolition of the iconic Catholic Cathedral in the diocese – in the wake of the devastating effects of the earthqakes which occurred almost a decade ago.
The efficiency with which Bishop Paul has managed this epochal activity has been quite remarkable – not without some vocal opposition; but with less problems than that experienced the local Anglican diocese, which had to abandon its preference for a new cathedral, because of violent protests by the local conservation society.
We Anglicans will regret this departure, principally because of the ecumenical relations existing between Bishop Paul and our own Anglican Bishop, Peter Carrell, in a situation of mutual concern for the people of Christchurch, who have shared in the devastation of both the earthquakes, and the unprovoked attack on the City’s Mosques, recently.
We wish Bishop Paul well in his ecclesiastical promotion to the role of Archbishop -Coadjutor in the Wellington Diocese (New Zealand’s capital city), where his capability will be an important factor in the progression of that city’s Roman Catholic community – especially on the retirement of Archbishop Dew.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand