Gielen to continue consolidating Christchurch city parishes


The new Christchurch Catholic bishop, Michael Gielen, is quick to praise the work done by the previous Christchurch bishop and apostolic administrator, Paul Martin.

Gielen says he is looking forward to continuing Martin’s work to consolidate the city’s parishes.

“The work he has done in paving the way for the consolidation and strengthening of our parishes and schools stands the diocese in fantastic stead going forward,” Gielen said.

“It is an exciting time to lead the diocese through this next growth phase of the Catholic Church in Christchurch.”

Gielen’s appointment as Bishop of Christchurch was announced in Rome by Pope Francis at 10 pm Saturday night (NZ time) and, while his appointment takes immediate effect, it is expected he will be formally installed as Bishop of Christchurch in early July.

Gielen says he has a deep respect for the people of Christchurch, that the diocese has faced considerable challenges and Martin had responded courageously to meet them.

“I am grateful for the leadership and vision of the outgoing bishop who leaves behind a courageous legacy,” said Gielen.

Martin presided over a radical restructuring of the diocese merging identifiable smaller city parishes into five “super parishes”.

The parish restructure is due for completion in 2023.

Gielen, from the Waikato in the Hamilton diocese, was born in Cambridge and raised in Tokoroa, where he was educated at Forest View High School. He is the oldest of six children.

He was ordained Auxiliary Bishop for the Auckland Diocese on 7 March 2020.  The deacon at his episcopal ordination was his father, Deacon Henk Gielen.

Gielen counts his Catholic faith and his family as his greatest blessings.

25 years a priest, Gielen has worked in Gisborne, Raglan and Mt Manganui. He has also been the Hamilton diocese vocations director and the Director of Formation at Holy Cross Seminary. He also studied in Steubenville, USA and Rome.

Michael Gielen on the ‘front foot’ playing cricket for Poverty Bay.

A keen reader and with an interest in all sports, these days he is a cyclist.

With Gielen’s appointment as Bishop of Christchurch, the former bishop of Christchurch and Apostolic Administrator Paul Martin will move to Wellington to take up his full-time position as Coadjutor Archbishop of Wellington.

With a new bishop of Christchurch, it just leaves Hamilton and Palmerston North without diocesan bishops.

Alarmingly, after the shock resignation of Charles Drennan, the Palmerston North diocese has remained without a bishop for nearly three years.

In November 2020, a spokesperson for the Catholic Church in New Zealand said that Pope Francis appointed all bishops and there was no timeframe for an appointment to the Palmerston North diocese.

Subsequent to Gielen’s appointment, members of the diocese who have spoken with CathNews say the long term delay in appointing a bishop in Palmerston North further fuels local fears and speculation that the diocese might be suppressed or be like two diocese in Ireland, where Pope Francis appointed one bishop to head both dioceses.

“We’ve been so long without a bishop we’ve forgotten what one is. I’m beginning to think we don’t need one,” a regular Sunday mass-goer said.



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