From Our Bishop - June 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

It was with a sense of real joy and hope that I was able to announce in April that, after a period of discernment with the people of the Christchurch Diocese, we will build our new cathedral on Barbadoes Street.

Along with those emotions, there is also a sense of a solemn responsibility as I, with you, have the rare privilege to erect a worthy monument to God for generations to come. Indeed, this will be the first Catholic cathedral built in New Zealand in 120 years. Our cathedral will be the centre of unity for our diocese, it will be the home of beautiful liturgy and it will be the “home base” from which people are sent out to love God and love their neighbour.
But what creates that centre of unity? Why does a cathedral hold such an important place in the Catholic life?
Cathedrals have been part of Catholic architecture since the fourth century. It is not their form, but something specific they contain, that denotes their significance. 

The word “cathedral” is linked to the Latin word cathedra, meaning “seat” or “throne”. It is from his cathedra that the bishop back then – as he does now – presided over the liturgy. It is the place from which he teaches the people of his diocese.

Bish Michael Oceania Evangelisation Programme
Bishop Michael concelebrating Mass at the Pentecost Sunday Mass at the Oceania Evangelisation Programme

Just as there can only be one bishop in a diocese, similarly there is one cathedral. And just as we hold that each bishop

is a successor of the apostles, we see the cathedra as a further symbol of that apostolic continuity through the centuries and to the ends of the earth.

It is for those reasons that our task of building a cathedral is so significant, so special, so sacred. It will obviously be

an important moment in the life of the Catholic Church in our region, but it also takes on an important place in the life of a city that is continuing its revitalisation.

Our first bishop, John Grimes, understood how a cathedral can capture imaginations.

“The building of a cathedral was one of those events which stirred the minds and hearts of whole peoples,” he said.

“They knew that in return for their toil they or their children would have in their midst another royal residence, a sure refuge, a house of prayer, a true happy home for themselves…
They knew that they were building not for man, but for God.”
If we think about the cathedrals we’ve seen, whether centuries or decades old, there is that common feature of drawing people to God. We might prefer one architectural style over another, but it’s hard not to conclude that a common thread that runs through our cathedrals is beauty.
Pope Francis expresses it this way: “The artistic patrimony of the Church, as well as the new ways of expressing beauty, are an invitation to humanity to discover the joy of the Gospel and the hope that it bears for the world.”

As I have shared previously, my desire is to see a cathedral that is beautiful, one that glorifies God and inspires his people. It is also my plan to build within the financial means of the diocese, keeping in mind the needs of our parishes and our people.

I am confident that beauty and financial prudence can both be achieved in our cathedral, and it will be a place that is

a beacon for all, including – and maybe especially – for those who are lost.

Just as I have done over the past 18 months, I will continue to draw upon experts to help me ensure that those goals can be achieved over what will be the several years before we dedicate our new cathedral.

Bish Michael Current of Grace 1
Bishop Michael celebrating Mass at the Current of Grace Conference

As this edition of Inform is published, we are part-way through the process of finding a worthy name for our new cathedral – the next step in our shared journey.

We are following a process similar to the one that many parishes have recently undertaken, allowing people’s prayerful considerations to shape the choice of a patronal name.

We will be drawing from the rich tapestry of the communion of saints, as well as other great titles of honour within the Church.

I look forward to carrying the hopes of the people of our diocese in choosing a name that can inspire, encourage, challenge and comfort us. Our patronal name will also provide a focus for our prayer, including in seeking our patron’s intercession. It will likely influence the design of our cathedral as well.
I am grateful for the prayers and words of encouragement people have offered in this journey so far. We have many years ahead, and I ask you to continue to surround the cathedral project in prayer.

Yours in Christ

+ Michael Gielen 

Bishop of Christchurch

Published in Inform Issue 141 - Winter 2024