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Kiwi bishops meet Pope during Rome ad limina

Pope John Paul yesterday met with seven bishops from New Zealand, who have travelled to Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visit.

Wellington's Cardinal Thomas Williams met the Pope accompanied by his new Coadjutor Bishop John Atcherley Dew. Then the bishops of Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton and Palmerston North had individiual meetings with the Holy Father.

The Holy Father also addressed the bisohps as a group, urging them to fight against the rising trend toward secularisation in the country.

He remarked that the country's people are suffering from "the tragic consequences of the eclipse of a sense of God."

To counteract that trend, the Holy Father urged the bishops to emphasize the importance of the Eucharistic liturgy, and particularly the need to participate actively in Sunday Mass. He warned that secularization advances, and people lose a sense of meaning in their lives, when Sabbath observance "becomes subordinate to a popular concept of 'weekend' and is unduly dominated by entertainment and sport."

He also encouraged them to uphold the Church's teachings on the sanctity of Christian marriage, in the context of proposed legislation before the New Zealand Parliament that would grant "civil union" status to same-sex couples.

He reminded them: "Any attempt to equate marriage with other forms of cohabitation violates its unique role in God's plan for humanity."

Prior to departing Wellington, Cardinal Williams wrote in the Archdiocesan newspaper Welcom: "We are doing as St Paul had done three years after his conversion: '. . . I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter. I stayed fifteen days with him . . .' We go to Rome to see the Successor of Peter, and our stay will be eight days only."

Cardinal Williams had told his Archdiocese that he expected that the Holy Father's health would prevent them from spending as much time with him as on previous visits, when the New Zealand Bishops concelebrated Mass in his private chapel and shared a meal at his table.

The bishops are also calling on a number of Curial Offices to discuss particular questions ecumenism, justice and peace, liturgy, education, doctrine, etc. In preparation for these discussions, each diocese sent a "quinquennial report" to the Apostolic See.

Counter secularization, Pope urges New Zealand bishops (Catholic World News 13/9/04)
Audiences (Vatican Information Service 13/9/04)
N.Z. Bishops heading Rome-ward (Welcom)

Pope Denounces Variations of 'Marriage' (Associated Press/ 13/9/04)
Pope Continues Anti-Gay Marriage Assault ( 13/9/04)
Catholic Church in New Zealand

14 Sep 2004