by MICHAEL OTTO
New Zealand’s new cardinal recalls that, when he was a boy, bishops and cardinals seemed to be very important, but somewhat remote.
“The most important thing is to be kind, friendly and welcoming to people.”
The 66-year-old admitted that he had neither seen nor met a cardinal until Cardinal Reginald Delargey’s time in Wellington (1974 to 1979 – appointed cardinal in 1976).
“I had seen Archbishop [later Cardinal] McKeefry only a couple of times as a young boy.”
On January 4, Pope Francis announced 15 new cardinals from around the world, including Cardinal Dew
and Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga.
The Pope also announced five new honorary cardinals.
Many commentators noted that Francis has continued his campaign to reach out to the peripheries, by naming cardinals in places like Panama, Thailand, Cape Verde, New Zealand and Tonga.
There were no new United States’ cardinals and only one new one from within Rome’s bureaucracy (the
Cardinal Dew said he is very surprised and humbled at having been chosen to be a cardinal.
He was alerted to the news of his appointment after his cellphone started making noises in the middle
of the night, early on January 5.
The new cardinal was on holiday at Waikanae Beach.
He later posted on his facebook page, thanking the many wellwishers, and noting that some of them had clearly found out about the news before he had.
Several days later, the messages were still coming in and he hadn’t counted them, but he was very thankful for them. “I deeply appreciate the messages received from other bishops around the Oceania region in particular and from many other Church leaders in New Zealand.”
Among those who took to social media to express their congratulations was Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the
president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In response to a question from NZ Catholic, Cardinal Dew said other VIPs had sent messages too.
“But it means just as much when parishioners and Catholics from around New Zealand have taken a moment to wish me well.
“Their support means a great deal to me, and is something I will look back on and treasure when I face difficult times.”
Cardinal Dew told NZ Catholic he has visited Cardinal Thomas Williams and has spoken with him about being a cardinal.
“I was auxiliary bishop for 10 years before succeeding him as archbishop and I have a huge respect for him and the work he did and the way in which he represented the Church in Aotearoa-New Zealand,” Cardinal Dew said.
“I especially admire the work he did in New Zealand advocating for people affected by various issues of justice and fairness in our society.
“He is a great example to follow, but I know I will have my own style, my own ways and approaches to things, and God has given me this task for me to do, so I have to trust my own abilities with God’s help.”
Cardinal Dew doesn’t have much time to learn the ropes, with a looming consistory and pre-consistory
discussions in Rome, scheduled for mid-February.
The Pope will be consulting his cardinals on his impending reforms for the Roman Curia.
Cardinal Dew said he got to know Pope Francis a little better during last year’s extraordinary synod
on marriage and the family.
“Like many people around the world, both Catholic and non-Catholic, I too have admired his words, his
wisdom and his way of expressing the Gospel message in simple, everyday language for people of all
backgrounds to understand the truth of God’s love for us and our humanity and the dignity of our lives.
“The leadership of Pope Francis is inspiring, his actions often speak louder than his words and his
ability to be with people and be present to them is remarkable.
“He continues to give us all an example of how to be ‘shepherds who know the smell of the sheep’.”
Ordained a priest in 1976, Cardinal Dew said he never thought he would be anything other than a
parish priest working in a parish.
Now, he has taken note of the Pope’s words about new cardinals last year: “The cardinalship does
not imply promotion; it is neither an honour nor a decoration; it is simply a service that requires you to broaden your gaze and open your hearts.”
Cardinal Dew has reflected on these words “amidst the whirlwind of congratulations, messages and media
interviews over the last couple of days”.
“I pray and ask others to pray for me, that I can be of service in a new way and to remain open to the
people I am called to walk alongside.”
He acknowledges he will be tasked with new responsibilities as cardinal.
“But I remain Archbishop of Wellington and will continue my other responsibilities.
“It is important to me that I can remain connected and present to the people of the archdiocese
of Wellington as much as I can. I have a wonderful, hardworking and dedicated staff and I’m sure they
will continue to support me in my work.”
Travelling to Rome more frequently, he will be mindful of the “responsibility and privilege of representing the Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and carrying their prayers, their hopes and their challenge with me into the discussions at a global level”.
The world’s media have already started to react to the appointment of the new cardinals.
Writing for the Crux Now website, John Allen stated the list included a couple of “high-profile
moderates, but no one with a clear reputation as a doctrinal or political conservative”.
Global Pulse editor Robert Mickens described Cardinal Dew as “a practical, down-to-earth pastor,
formed in the mindset of the Second Vatican Council, [who] has vast parish experience”.
Mickens wrote that Cardinal Dew “will be seen as a moderate-to-progressive voice in the College
Other outlets have noted that Cardinal Dew is the only native English speaker among the new cardinals.