Pacific welcome for Caritas Internationalis President in Aotearoa New Zealand

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By Martin De Jong

From the moment he received a Samoan lei (garland) at morning Mass, Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga knew he was in for a special experience. He was on a brief visit to Aotearoa New Zealand at the bottom of the South Pacific this week, before travelling onto Australia.

In a homily on Friday’s Gospel (Luke ‪11:15-26)‬, where Jesus casts out devils, Cardinal Maradiaga reflected on the ‘modern devils’ – such as the greed behind the 2007 global financial crisis – that we are called to expel today. Reflecting on the work of Caritas, and Christ’s word to us today, he said we are called not to promote a globalisation of greed, but ‘instead a globalisation of solidarity and love’.

Shortly after the Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Wellington, Cardinal Maradiaga was formally welcomed in a whakatau – a Maori welcome acknowledging the sacred dignity of visitor and host alike. Maori are the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand, represented by 12 per cent of the population, which now includes many descended from more recent European, Pacific, Asian and other arrivals.

‘I can’t describe what I have in my heart,’ said Cardinal Maradiaga. ‘It’s beautiful to come to another culture that you don’t know, and be greeted by a different language – but it’s the same language: love,’ said Cardinal Maradiaga.

Later, In a meeting with staff and representatives of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand and the Caritas Oceania regional organisation, he encouraged them in facing their challenges, highlighting the importance of education and formation of the Catholic laity, of love and mercy, and Pope Francis’ message to go to the margins. He appreciated the staff’s important work in advocacy and education, and addressing the needs of poor and vulnerable people in Aotearoa New Zealand and abroad.

Responding to a staff member’s question, ‘How do you show God’s love in a practical way when writing a report?’, Cardinal Maradiaga quoted the Spanish: Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente, which he expressed in English as ‘It is necessary to see, in order to share.’

In a discussion on the impact of climate change on low-lying Pacific islands, Cardinal Maridiaga expressed concern for the plight of Kiribati, whose President Anote Tong has sought opportunities for his country’s people to migrate elsewhere if rising seas make some islands in his widely dispersed nation uninhabitable. The Cardinal said Caritas Internationalis was lobbying on climate justice, despite the ‘indifference’ often found at international fora and among nations such as China and the United States.

Talking to Catholic media at the end of the day, during discussion on a lack of named Saints orginating from Oceania, the Cardinal said, ‘There is a lot of holiness in the Church, more than people think. There are quiet and simple, beautiful Christians going about their work.’

Today (Saturday), Cardinal Maradiaga is meeting New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops whose biannual meeting in Wellington coincided with his visit. He is also being interviewed live on New Zealand’s National Radio at 8.15am NZT (Friday 9.15pm Rome time):  http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/saturday  (available by podcast shortly after the interview).

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