From Our Bishop

17 September 2023

“Rise, and do not be afraid.”

We heard these words from the readings on the Feast of the Transfiguration (Sunday 6 August). On this day I was concelebrating the Mass with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, at the final World Youth Day Mass in Lisbon, with an estimated 1.5 million people. At this Mass were the 120 pilgrims from New Zealand, including 35 from our Christchurch Diocese.

As Pope Francis addressed the young people in his homily, he shared an encouragement for them to shine, to listen, and to be unafraid as they return home. He said to the young people who want to change the world, “you who are the present and the future - be not afraid. Jesus himself knows each one of you in your joys and sadness.” This message to be fearless, which appears often in the gospels, applies to each of us in our own situations, and encourages us to turn to God in prayer.

It has been a joy to accompany the pilgrims from our diocese and those from across the country. During our travels, we visited a number of important places of pilgrimage through France and Portugal, including Lyon, from where the first missionaries set off on their mission to Oceania. One of the highlights was our pilgrimage to Lourdes and Fatima, the two Marian sanctuaries, where we joined with many pilgrims from around the world in calling for Our Blessed Mother’s intercession. These visits were
particularly apt, given the proximity in time to the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On a more sombre note, the final report from the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care, Maryland’s School Report - a residential school for boys located in Halswell from the 1950s to 1984 - has been made public. The details of these reports have been difficult for us to hear and to digest. I have personally found this report of these actions abhorrent and feel deep shame that the vulnerable people under our care experienced such despicable treatment. 

When the scale of abuse started to become more widely known in the 1990s, the Church established the National Office of Professional Standards (NOPS) to respond to complaints for harm done and oversee the Church’s Safeguarding policies and practices, through processes set out in Te Houhanga Rongo - A Path to Healing. We have put many processes in place to ensure that situations like those reported will not occur again.

Read the Report Here

Safeguarding is promoting an environment within all our faith communities, which respects and acknowledges the dignity of everyone, and where people feel valued and safe. Safeguarding representatives are present in each of our parishes to assist with
compliance, to champion safeguarding, and to support the parish in the development of safeguarding best practice.

While we cannot undo the hurt of the past, we are determined to learn from it and be better because of it. We think of those who have been wounded by this abuse. Often their lives are profoundly altered by the effects of this abuse. Please pray for them and pray that they may find some resolution, and that we in the Church could now be, in some way, a source of help and healing.

I am also aware of the deep impact this shameful period is having on the lives of faithful parishioners. The evil actions of a few have tarnished us all. I ask you to look to Jesus, continue to place your hope in him, and walk with him through this difficult time. As your bishop, it is my work to seek healing and bring comfort for those damaged. It is also my calling as your shepherd to keep Christ’s flock in this diocese together and care for your pastoral needs. I pray that, while your faith is tested, you are able to remain faithful to Christ and His Church. Please be assured of my commitment to creating a safe and fulfilling faith community within the Diocese of Christchurch. I thank you for all you do to achieve this, and to ensure we have vibrant and welcoming communities.

In light of recent media attention around exorcisms and other allegations aired on TV3’s ‘Paddy Gower Has Issues’, I would like to reassure you that when a complaint or concern of any nature is received by the diocese, it is always followed up and, if necessary, referred on to the most appropriate agency to deal with. This process may take longer than expected and, at times, it may appear that little or nothing is happening. Please bear in mind that many of these cases are complex in nature, and the privacy and rights of all must be respected and upheld.

Bishop Elect John Adams Rangiora 2 2023

In happier news, I join with so many of you in gratitude for Bishop-elect John Adams’ call to serve Christ’s Church as Bishop of Palmerston North. It is a wonderful sign of the fruit of a diocese, when one of their sons is chosen as a successor of the apostles. Let us keep Bishop-elect Adams in prayer, as he responds to Christ’s new call in his life.

I take this opportunity to congratulate Ken Joblin who, with this edition, marks ten years as our Inform editor. We all benefit from Ken’s steadfast faith which underpins his work. He certainly uses the gifts God has given him, to make Inform a diocesan magazine of which we are humbly proud. We also thank the Inform team who assists Ken in the editing, proofing, lay-out, design, and production of Inform. Do not be afraid to share Inform with your family and friends, as a way of including them in the life of the Christchurch Diocese.

The scripture Pope Francis chose as the theme for World Youth Day was “Mary arose and went with haste” (Luke 1:39), which is the beginning of the visitation of Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth. Pope Francis offers Mary as the one who accompanies each of us on our Christian journey. May her intercession lead us into an ever-deepening encounter with Christ.

Yours in Christ
+ Michael Gielen

Bishop of Christchurch

“Go forth then, bringing God’s radiant smile to everyone! Go and bear witness to the joy of faith, to the hope that warms your hearts, and to the love that you bring to everything you do. Shine with the light of Christ. Listen to him so that you, too, may become the light of the world. And do not be afraid, for the Lord loves you and walks at your side. With Jesus, life is born anew, always. ”

- Pope Francis’ final words in his World Youth Day homily