Cardinal Dew quizzed on Church in radio show

If Cardinal John Dew was elected as Pope, what would he like to see different about the Church at the end of his pontificate?

Wellington Cardinal John Dew

That was a question put to Cardinal Dew in an interview by John Cowan on Real Life on NewstalkZB on Easter Sunday. Cardinal Dew started his answer by stating “I would be saying, that [being elected Pope] would never happen to me”.

The cardinal quickly referred the interviewer to the synod process underway, and its emphasis on listening to many voices from many different quarters.

“I think whoever is the Pope, certainly needs to continue to look for ways to involve all of the People of God in the Church, so that it is not just seen as an hierarchical structure, where priests and bishops and cardinals do everything, and make all the decisions,” Cardinal Dew said.

“That is the whole point behind this listening process that Pope Francis has asked the Church to engage in,” he said.

In this, “Pope Francis is doing something remarkable”, asking people their views as to “where the Church should be today, what the Church should be doing”.

Cardinal Dew said that it is not just the end product of the synod process that is being sought, it is the process itself of getting people to come together and reflect and discern together that is of importance. The cardinal also pointed to recent changes made by Pope Francis to allow lay people to be appointed to head Roman curial offices.

Mr Cowan quizzed Cardinal Dew about priestly celibacy. “You represent a faith that talks so much about connection and community, but it calls upon its priests and nuns to forgo what, for most of us, provides us with love and intimacy. Is that too hard?” he asked the cardinal.

Cardinal Dew responded that priestly celibacy should not be seen as a negative thing.

However, there is a practical side to it, he said.

“I know that, if I was married and I had a partner, I would want to be spending time with wife and family. But I don’t have that, and that allows me to give a lot more time, say when I was in a parish, to people in a parish. I am sometimes asked by young people about celibacy and I say, we can live without sex, but we can’t live without love. We are called to be people who share our lives and respond, not to a greater call to love, but a different call.”

Asked if he felt “short-changed”, Cardinal Dew responded, “No, my life has been and still is, very, very rich.”

The face of the Church is changing because of immigration to New Zealand, Cardinal Dew said, but when asked about the key to its lasting 2000 years, he pointed to the importance of relationships.

“I am always saying to our clergy, and those we do have as lay pastoral leaders, that ministry is always about relationships, the way we try to connect with one another,” he said.

“One of the sayings I have is that the Church is more about belonging than it is believing. People think that if we believe a certain . . . and it’s true, we do believe a creed and, you know, facts of faith . . . but it is not just by believing that people are connected with one another. It is by giving one another a sense of belonging and community, and that we are related and connected to each other because of the fact that we share a common faith.”

Asked if his understanding of what the Christian message means had changed over the years that he had been a Christian, Cardinal Dew said that there had certainly been changes in emphasis.

“I think, as a schoolboy, we were brought up thinking it was all about keeping rules, and that God was watching over us to see us make mistakes or do something that is wrong. I don’t think that at all about God now.

“My whole sense of God is this being who invites us into life, and who wants to share the fullness of life with us. And in some ways, I think it is probably a lot simpler, and that religion itself can be very, very, simple. And we learn so much from
one another. Once it used to be that the Church was seen as a perfect society, now it is recognised as the People of God, travelling together . . .”

The cardinal also spoke about prayer, the Easter message, the challenges facing the Church as pandemic regulations ease, and about gratitude.


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Michael Otto

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