67 years as priest and bishop

Bishop Meeking (left) with the current Bishop of Christchurch, Bishop Paul Martin, SM, in 2019.

Bishop Basil Meeking was the seventh bishop of Christchurch.  

Born in Ashburton in 1929, he attended St Joseph’s School in Ashburton and St Bede’s College in Christchurch. He entered Holy Cross College in Mosgiel to study for the priesthood in 1947. He was ordained as a priest in Dallington in 1953. 

He served as a priest at the cathedral parish and at Beckenham and St Martins. He was also chaplain to Christchurch Hospital and to the Catholic Nurses’ Guild from 1959 to 1963. He became secretary of the Hospital Chaplains Council. He worked on the Christchurch New Church Research Group. 

He undertook doctoral studies from 1963-1966 in Rome at the University of St Thomas Angelicum. Returning to New Zealand, he served as administrator of parishes at Kaiapoi, Methven and Bryndwr from 1966 to 1969. 

In 1969, he was appointed to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome, where he worked for the next 18 years, becoming secretary of the organisation. 

In 1976, he was made Chaplain to the Holy Father. He was made a Prelate of Honour in 1982. By then he was secretary of the Joint Working Group of the World Council of Churches. 

In 1987, he was appointed as the seventh Bishop of Christchurch and was ordained bishop on June 3, 1987. As bishop, he established Good Shepherd House in Christchurch, to provide pre-seminary training for men considering a priestly vocation. 

In 1996, he retired from his diocesan leadership role and retained the title of Bishop Emeritus, while Bishop John Cunneen succeeded him as Bishop of Christchurch. 

Since his retirement as the Bishop of Christchurch, Bishop Meeking worked from 1997 to 2006 with the late Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He then resided in Christchurch and continued giving retreats and talks in New Zealand and overseas. 

Bishop Meeking died on June 11, 2020. 

Message of the Holy Father, Pope Francis

Pope Francis

[To] The Most Reverend Paul Martin, Bishop of Christchurch, His Holiness, Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the death of Bishop Emeritus Basil Meeking, and he sends heartfelt condolences to you and to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese of Christchurch. With prayerful thanksgiving for Bishop Meeking’s many years of dedicated priestly and episcopal ministry to the Apostolic See and to the Church in New Zealand, His Holiness is praying that our heavenly Father may grant him the reward of his labours, and welcome his noble soul into the peace and joy of heaven. To all who mourn the late bishop’s passing, the Holy Father willingly imparts his apostolic blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Risen Lord.

— Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State.

Message of the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples To the Most Reverend Paul Martin, Bishop of Christchurch, New Zealand.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle

With deep sadness, the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples has learned of the passing away of the Most Reverend Basil Meeking, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Christchurch. We express to you and to all priests, religious and laity, our heartfelt condolences, assuring you of our prayers for the eternal repose of the soul of this zealous pastor, who served the Church with dedication. In this moment of bereavement, we pray that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Bishop Meeking may receive the eternal reward God has promised for his good and faithful servant.

— Antonio Luis Cardinal Tagle, Prefect, and Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, Secretary.

Comment by Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa, Apostolic Nuncio to New Zealand, at the requiem Mass on June 17

Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa

May I, on behalf of the Apostolic Nunciature in New Zealand, and of the Apostolic Delegation to Oceania, join the Holy Father and the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, in presenting our heartfelt condolence to this diocese of Christchurch, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, ensuring of our prayers, which we make to Our Heavenly Father, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the soul of Bishop Basil Meeking, for his family members, relatives and for the People of God in this country. May he rest in the glorious presence of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

— Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa, Apostolic Nuncio to New Zealand.

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