Catholic World News

New cardinal profile: Archbishop John Dew

January 21, 2015

Fourth on the list of new cardinals announced by Pope Francis on January 4 is Archbishop John Dew, 66, of Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. The prelate’s three predecessors were also cardinals.

Born in 1948 in a town of 2,000 on New Zealand’s North Island, the future prelate attended a Catholic elementary school and a boys’ Catholic high school before studying at Holy Name Seminary (now closed) and Holy Cross College, the national major seminary. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Wellington in 1976.

Following his ordination, Archbishop Dew served as a parochial vicar (1976-79) in Upper Hutt, a city of 40,000; a parish priest and missionary in the Cook Islands (1980-82); and director of Wellington’s archdiocesan youth ministry and chaplain of migrants from the Cook Islands Maori community in Wellington (1982-87). From 1988 to 1991, he served as formation director at the national seminary.

From 1991 to 1992, the future archbishop lived in England, where he studied at the Institute of St. Anselm, a formation program for spiritual directors run by the Mill Hill Missionaries in Kent. He returned to New Zealand and served as a parish priest from 1993 to 1995.

In 1995, St. John Paul II appointed him auxiliary bishop of Wellington, and nine years later, he appointed him coadjutor archbishop. In 2005, Archbishop Dew acceded to the see. Since 2012, he has served as president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and from 2011 to 2014, he served as president of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania.

Archbishop Dew issued pastoral letters on the abuse crisis (2010) and on a parish amalgamation plan (2011) in response to declining priestly vocations. In 2014, he welcomed the 40 Days for Life pro-life initiative.

In an intervention at the 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, he said:

Paragraph 5 of the Instrumentum Laboris calls attention to the scandal of starvation in a world of plenty. There also exists the question of those hungering for the food of the Eucharist. As bishops, we have a pastoral duty and an obligation before God to discuss and debate the difficulties burdening so many of our people. Our Church would be enriched if we were able to invite dedicated. Catholics, currently excluded from the Eucharist, to return to the Lord’s table. There are those whose first marriages ended in sadness; they have never abandoned the Church, but are currently excluded from the Eucharist. There are Catholics married to people baptized in other Christian faiths. We acknowledge them to be baptized in Christ in the sacrament of marriage, but not in the reception of the Eucharist.

This Synod must be pastoral in approach; we must look for ways to include those who are hungering for the Bread of Life. The scandal of those hungering for Eucharistic food needs to be addressed, just as the scandal of physical hunger needs to be addressed.

Archbishop Dew blogged from the 2014 Synod of Bishops on the family.

“I gave my own Intervention today and it seemed to be well received by most,” he wrote on October 8. “I basically said that we have to change the language which is used in various Church documents so that people do not see and hear the Church judging or condemning, passing out rules and laws, but rather showing concern and compassion and reaching out to help people discover God in their lives.”

“I would say that overall there is a great sense of hope not that things are going to change immediately, but that at least we can talk about some of these issues that in the past we haven’t been able to talk about,” he told Vatican Radio on October 10. “Nine years ago at the Synod on the Eucharist I talked about the possibility of Communion for the divorced and remarried and got a lot of criticism. Now at this Synod it’s being talked about openly by many, many people.”

“The arguments are very strong as to whether this should be about Doctrine and truth, or about mercy and compassion for those who struggle and for whom life is difficult,” he wrote on October 15. “Some definitely think that others are doing away with doctrine, which of course we are not. We are saying that the Church needs to be warm and welcoming – showing the mercy and kindness of Jesus … It’s strange, some of the Synod members want to use more Scripture quotes, but it seems that it is only the ones that suit their arguments.”

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