“Surely the fostering of unity is a noble task which is incumbent upon all who have at heart the good of the whole human family. It is my hope that interreligious and ecumenical cooperation will demonstrate that men and women do not have to forsake their identity, whether ethnic or religious, in order to live in harmony with their brothers and sisters.”
Pope Francis (Address to Ecumenical and Inter-religious Gathering in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2015)
It is an integral part of the mission of the Auckland diocese to promote unity amongst the Christian family and build relationships with people of other religions. As Auckland continues to grow in its ethnic and religious diversity, ecumenical and interfaith movements become crucial in ensuring that all people, regardless of their creed, are respected and could freely exercise their faith. The Catholic Church in Auckland collaborates with other Christian communities and religious organisations to foster unity in diversity among all people who call Aotearoa New Zealand home.
Christchurch – Aotearoa New Zealand’s “darkest day”.
Friday the 15th of March 2019 was New Zealand’s “darkest day” in the words of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Throughout the whole of New Zealand people of various cultures and communities gathered to rally support and shared prayers in solidarity. This was to do with the tragedy that has unfolded in Christchurch on Friday March 15th, when 50 Muslim worshippers were killed in a massacre by one person. The victims, with families and friends, had arrived for Friday prayers at the two mosques in the city.
Within the Catholic Diocese of Auckland, prayer services for those affected were held by various faith communities, focusing on sharing support, love and compassion.
A vigil open to all was held on Sunday 17 March at 4:30 pm on Vermont Street, at Ponsonby’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Auckland, where hundreds of Auckland mourners gathered and shared prayers and tears for those who had lost their lives on Friday. The mourners that came together represented the diversity of New Zealand both in national identity and creed.
Bishop Patrick Dunn of the Catholic Diocese of Auckland led the service. A range of the Psalms were recited that fitted beautifully for the occasion showing common ground between Catholics and the Muslim believers. Bishop Pat greeted everyone sincerely and read out a message received from Pope Francis. The congregation sang the moving hymn “Lord, Make me a channel of your Peace”.
The Muslim community was also represented by their ministers at the prayer service, as in the picture provided.
One of the Muslim leaders identified in his speech that his family had immigrated to Auckland in 1907, and so calls himself a “true Kiwi”. In his great sense of humour, one of his other comments was that he was grateful for the Catholic community of Ponsonby to allow them to park in the parking lot in front of the church. He then turned to Bishop Pat and said: “You don’t need to show mercy when my Muslim brothers block your parking – you can call the police and tow them away”. This created laughter and joy and solace amongst those who were there at the service. The Muslim minister also reiterated that the Muslims considered Mary as the most important woman in the world and Jesus, her son, was a great prophet. He said that any Muslim who denies Jesus is not a true Muslim.
The second Muslim leader focused his speech on the act of violence. He said that he had lost some dear friends who had been active in the community. He said that Muslims had learned from Catholics that they needed to reach out irrespective of their religion. In his opinion, the speaker compassionately said that the person who violently attacked his fellow family members and friends must have been a very lonely and sad person who needed a lot of prayer. It was important to note that the speaker even mentioned that there was control in NZ mosques to not allow hate speech. He said that there had been a case where an imam was giving hate speeches in Auckland and consequently, this mosque was closed down and the imam removed. He reiterated that a violent act should be answered with love and support.
A collection was taken and the funds collected were presented to the Muslim community to provide support in Christchurch. At the end of the service, the Catholic community sang the hymn of Our Holy Mother, “Mo Maria“, before Bishop Pat led the way in a procession across the street to the mosque carrying a wreath of flowers. In the mosque, a few speeches of thanks were given by the Muslim community.
We continue to pray for the Muslim families and friends of Aotearoa, and for those working to provide support.
Eternal Rest, Grant To Them o Lord
And Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Them
May They Rest In Peace.
World Day of Prayer at Northcote
The annual World Day of Prayer is an ecumenical initiative by Christian women worldwide and many of our churches participate every year on the 1st Friday of March.
Commission for Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations
The Auckland Diocesan Commission for Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations meets four or five times a year to study Church teachings on ecumenism and interfaith relations as well as promote ecumenical and interfaith activities around the diocese.
Members of the commission have wide range of knowledge and experience in the Catholic Church’s understanding in promoting unity among Christians and building bridges with other faith traditions.
Bruce Harrison (Chair)
Deborah Wood (Secretary)
Beate Matthies (Catholic Representative on the Interfaith Council)
Sr Sian Owen RSJ (Member of the Catholic-Methodist Dialogue)
Louisa Rani (CDA Mission & Evangelization representative)
Ecumenism and Interfaith Networks
Council for Christians and Jews
Council for Christians and Muslims
Ecumenical and Interfaith Committees of the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference
NZCBC Committee for Interfaith Relations
Mr Colin Macleod (Chair)
NZCBC Committee for Ecumenism
Cardinal John A Dew DD (Chair)
Ecumenism and Interfaith Resource
“Promoting Interfaith Relations” Booklet is available via NZCBC, click here to view the booklet.
A Video from The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogu