VATICAN CITY (VaticanRadio) — New Zealand’s bishops were overwhelmed with the responses to the lineamenta (the questionnaire sent out before the Synod of Bishops on the Family), Archbishop John Dew told Vatican Radio on October 10.
The archbishop said that 25 per cent of the New Zealand respondents were non-practising
Catholics. “And really what they were saying was that the language in Church documents is
Archbishop Dew told interviewer Emer McCarthy that when he was elected, Pope Francis quipped that his brother bishops had gone to the ends of the world to choose the Bishop of Rome. “Since his election he has pushed for greater attention to the people and Churches on the peripheries. This — it seems — has struck a chord with the Church in New Zealand, particularly people who saw themselves as being ‘outside the Church’.”
Archbishop Dew said another dominant issue in New Zealand is the annulment process. “It’s
been another big call at the synod, too, to simplify the annulment process to make it easier.”
He put that in his own context: “For example, in New Zealand for a lot of Polynesians, they
find the annulment process very invasive, they feel that they are being disloyal to a family
member if they talk about a marriage break-up.
So there was a big call to maybe just have the first judgment and not having to go to a court
of second instance. And it’s great to hear all of that spoken about.”
He said that he is refreshed by that debate, but he also warned against false hopes of immediate change, emphasising that the synod is part of a process. In the meantime, he welcomed
Pope Francis’s decision to set up a committee to investigate the procedure for annulment.
“Those couples where the marriage has broken up and the aggrieved party, the one who
through no fault of their own has been left in the lurch, what can happen for those people, that is a very big question that is being asked. But it’s not going to be resolved overnight.”
He described a pervading sense of hope and excitement among people in the synod hall: “I
would say that overall there is a great sense of hope — not that things are going to change
immediately, but that at least we can talk about some of these issues that in the past we haven’t been able to talk about.
“Nine years ago at the Synod on the Eucharist I talked about the possibility of Communion for
the divorced and remarried and got a lot of criticism. Now at this synod it’s being talked about openly by many, many people.”
Archbishop Dew said that although a synod veteran, there is “a difference with Pope Francis”.
“He is just there wandering around and talking to people. He’s very serious about collegiality.
People feel freer and you can sense that in the atmosphere.”