[Since this story was published in NZ Catholic, the NZCBC has received the following message from Cardinal Tagle’s office: “It has recently been confirmed that His Eminence, Cardinal Tagle, has been named as a participant in the upcoming synod this October. Given the schedule of the synod itself, as well as the planning leading up to it, His Eminence will unfortunately not be available to make a trip to New Zealand this fall.”]
Pro-Prefect for the Section of Evangelisation of the Dicastery for Evangelisation, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, is understood to have accepted the invitation of New Zealand priests to speak at the National Clergy Assembly in October this year.
Dunedin priest Fr Michael Hishon, chair of the organising committee, said that they are “delighted to have committed him to spending some brief, but very valuable, time amidst our clergy”.
Fr Hishon said that the theme for this year’s assembly is “Journeying together as priests in these changing times”, which is a perfect subject for the cardinal to tackle given his (Cardinal Tagle’s) current position.
“The significance of his visit is very relevant given his prominent position in Rome, and given the growing number of families and priests from the Philippines now living and working in dioceses throughout New Zealand, many of whom he has taught at the seminary in the past,” he said.
Fr Hishon said that it is hard to get prominent personalities to speak at the assembly because of their very busy schedules.
He added that it is particularly hard to get speakers who will attract the interest of the priests, given the “variety of priests that we have”.
Fr Hishon also said that they had tried to invite Cardinal Tagle five years ago, and the cardinal almost agreed, but could not make it. NZ Catholic understands he had also been invited in 2013, but could not attend then either. In 2019, Pope Francis appointed him to be Prefect of the then-Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
“We’re blessed to get him and, once he’s landed and spoken, I will be relieved. But until he’s landed and spoken, anything can happen,” Fr Hishon said.
Some less hopeful observers noted that the first session of the Synod on Synodality in Rome will happen from October 4- 29 this year, which could see the cardinal begging off from this engagement.
The priests of New Zealand gather every five years at the invitation of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference. The event will be held at the Novotel in Rotorua, and will be co-hosted by the local Catholic parishes of St Michael’s and Mary’s.
Fr Hishon said that they will be inviting a few New Zealand priests, and possibly an Australian one, to fill up more slots for speakers.
“The event’s itinerary also encompasses a daily Mass and meal-time together. There are also various activities planned for afternoon recreation, taking in some of the highlights of local culture,” he said.
“The local iwi will, of course, welcome us as we arrive at the venue, to begin what will be a wonderful week of reunions, reflection, fellowship and replenishment.”
Other members of the organising committee include Frs Carlo Cruz (Auckland), Gerard Patterson (Hamilton), Brian Carmine (Palmerston North), Bill Warwick (Wellington), and Joaquin Camano (Christchurch).