New Zealand’s Catholic bishops have expressed their openness to have priests training for the Holy See’s diplomatic corps doing their year of missionary experience here.
In February this year, Pope Francis wrote a letter to Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy president Archbishop Joseph Marino, requesting that an addition to the curriculum be made for these diplomats in training. This addition calls for one year to be spent on a mission in a local church.
The Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy trains priests for the diplomatic service of the Holy See.
“Any priests who are going to serve in the diplomatic corps, if they are looking for pastoral experience, they’d be most welcome to come to New Zealand,” Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn said. “Preferably to Auckland,” he added with a laugh.
Bishop Dunn said the idea behind this is just to give them “some exposure to the Church in a country that is different from their homeland”.
“So, if they were Filipino, it would be good for them to come here. They might learn something new if they come to New Zealand. If they were a New Zealander, they might find the Philippines to be a fascinating experience of a different Church. I think that’s what Pope Francis means,” Bishop Dunn explained.
In his letter to Archbishop Marino, Pope Francis said that he is “convinced that such an experience will be useful for all the young men preparing for, or beginning, priestly service, but especially for those who will someday be called to work with the pontifical representatives and, afterwards, will in turn become envoys of the Holy See to nations and particular Churches.”
“The mission to which you will be called one day to carry out will take you to all parts of the world,” the Pope said.
“Europe is in need of an awakening; Africa is thirsty for reconciliation; Latin America is hungry for nourishment and interiority; North America is intent on rediscovering the roots of an identity that is not defined by exclusion; Asia and Oceania are challenged by the capacity to ferment in diaspora, and to dialogue with the vastness of ancestral cultures.”
The Pope added that he believes the experience will be useful, not only for the priests, but also to the diocese where they would spend their missionary year.
Bishop Dunn said that he knows the priests training for the Vatican’s diplomatic service will be welcomed anywhere in New Zealand.