I need to change. Bishop Lowe responds to “Pink Shoes into Vatican”

Women who have for years trodden a path of service to the church but still feel disenfranchised, marginalised and unheard were honoured simultaneously on Sunday in Auckland and Wellington by an event “Pink Shoes into the Vatican.”

Be the Change, Catholic Church, Aotearoa New Zealand chose Sunday – the day before the anniversary of women’s suffrage day – to mount their installation where dozens of pairs of shoes were placed so they led to the Catholic cathedrals in central Auckland and Wellington.

Splashes of pink – including among the shoes – coloured the occasion, along with music, singing and speeches.

The shoes signify the largely unpaid work women have done for the Church throughout the ages, organisers say. Their contributions were recorded in accompanying printed vignettes.

Despite women often being in the majority of organisers and participants in any Catholic congregation and liturgical celebration, their role in the church is not equal, organisers point out.

The Catholic Church continues the injustice of refusing to recognise women’s worth by denying them equality in leadership roles, Pink Shoes into the Vatican say.


Best wishes came from Steve Lowe, Catholic bishop of Auckland.

Apologising to “Pink Shoes into the Vatican” group for his inability to be with them in person, Lowe wrote a supportive letter.

“While there have been and continue to be a litany of amazing women throughout this history of the Church, your presence and voice today is a reminder that you are the Church and Church’s need to change,” he said.

“Thank you for your prophetic hikoi to the Cathedral today, which is ultimately a call to respect the dignity that flows from our being created male and female in the image and likeness of our God.

“Your voice today echoes the voice of women throughout the world who, as part of the current synodal process, are calling on the Church to reflect the inherent dignity of women in the leadership of the Church… May we have the courage not to get stuck in structures that are not necessarily of God.”

In the absence of the bishop, the Administrator of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Chris Denham, received the women’s statement and gave them Lowe’s letter of support.

“When Fiona and Christina visited me a couple of months ago, they presented me with Kate’s pink shoes. They (the shoes) remain in my office and are certainly a talking point. They also remind me I too need to change,” Lowe wrote.

Wellington’s Coadjutor Archbishop Paul Martin, however, denied the Pink Shoes into the Vatican group publicity for their shoe installation. He also wrote to parishes in the Wellington archdiocese requesting they do the same.

“Since the archbishop’s edict to parishes not to advertise this event, one woman has written of her indignation. Others have asked, ‘what was he thinking?'” a Wellington organiser Cecily McNeil told the group.

She invited the Archbishop to read the first few paragraphs in the archdiocesan synod synthesis.

With Cardinal Dew in the South Island and Martin in Rome, there was no one to receive the predominantly women’s group in Wellington.

Priest, Jim Dooley, spoke at the Wellington gathering saying his fellow priests did not understand equality because, in their priestly formation, they were exposed to a different set of principles.

He said, to applause, that what the women were looking for was a “no brainer.”

Dooley equated the church’s treatment of women to slavery, a reference to the fact that in most churches, women do much of the work – cleaning and pastoral work as well as liturgical preparation, almost always for no pay.


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