22 January 2020
CEPAC and New Zealand
Over the past few weeks, our Dicastery has hosted the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific and that of New Zealand on their ad limina visit. Here, we offer a few salient points which were brought up in the dialogue with the prelates.
A Church of the laity
The group from the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific (CEPAC), led by Bishop Paul Patrick Donoghue, bishop of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, described the realities of a Church made up of small communities spread out over a territory of over five million square meters, comprised of islands and islets, where ecclesial communities sometimes do not exceed over two hundred souls. This geographical configuration makes it difficult to move about and therefore, not infrequently, it can happen that a community will not receive a visit from a bishop or a priest for a long time, if not years. But by making virtue out of necessity, the Church of the Pacific has been able to transform these objective logistical difficulties the scarcity of priests into a blessing. In fact, it has always valued the role of the lay faithful. Since its very first evangelization, the Church of the Pacific has always been entrusted to the indigenous laity who, once converted to the Christian faith, in turn became evangelizers to their brothers. It is in this context which emerged the prominent figure of the “Katekita,” a layperson overall responsible for the administration of the local Christian community: animating the community liturgy, breaking open the bread of the Word to nourish the faith of their brethren, celebrating funerals and baptizing in danger of death.
Remaining close to young people, for their evangelization
Meeting with the bishops of New Zealand, in speaking of the youth, these pastors reaffirmed the necessity for the Church to be ever nearer to young people and open to their questions, even if this can be awkward at times. Only this kind of close communication will allow the Church to read the signs of the times and avoid any risk of being disconnected from the realities of young people. In the face of a culture pervaded by virtual reality where—according to statistics—every two seconds a child connects to the internet, and adolescents spend an average of six hours a day online, the Church cannot exempt itself from the work of reintroducing our young people to real relationships, with the Church being the first to take on this exercise in actual closeness. As Christ is not “virtual,” so also are human relationships unable to be virtual. And the prelates were all in agreement that, where this work of pastoral closeness is carried out, the young people become radiant because they thirst for truth.
Gender ideology and same-sex marriage
The two groups raised the issue of gender ideology and recounted the growing pressure for the legalization of same-sex marriage. Based on the exchange with the bishops, the Church’s teaching on these matters was clearly reaffirmed: the identity of a person—and therefore also their sexual identity—is determined by the genotype and not the phenotype, and therefore “you are as you were born” and not as you feel; and Christian marriage is between one man and one woman. Finally, with equal clarity the prelates recognized that it is the task of the Church to welcome and love everyone as children of God, regardless of their sexual orientation or condition.