NZ omitted from Oceania Catholic climate crisis conference

Oceania Catholic climate crisis

The New Zealand Catholic Church is not on the expert speaking list at an Oceania Catholic climate crisis meeting.

A world first, the conference is driven by the Australian Catholic University with support from the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

New Zealanders, however, are still invited to register and listen in over Zoom.

Sources in New Zealand expressed surprise there were no New Zealand representatives on the conference’s list of experts, particularly given indigenous people are a significant part of the conference focus.

“The omission of Maori is puzzling,” a Church official told CathNews.

The ACU and Vatican Dicastery’s invitation to participate describes the process as “Synodal”.

“Experience a synodal process of storytelling, reflection, practical theology and dialogue in preparation for the 2023 Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania General Assembly,” reads the invitation.

However, Secreariat Advisor Kaupapa Māori to the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, Deacon Danny Karatea-Goddard, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāpuhi, Te Kapotai, Te Honihoni, Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Hine, is disappointed that Māori have been ignored.

“Given our whakapapa connection to Te Moananui a Kiwa, o Hawaikinui (the great Ocean of Kiwa and South East Asia) there is always an opportunity for the Māori voice to be present and to offer our indigenous perspective,” he told CathNews.

Karatea-Goddard says the ability of Māori to understand, record and forecast weather and climate has been an important factor in responding to weather and climate change in Aotearoa New Zealand.

He says responding to weather and climate change is essential not only for our survival but for all life around us.

“In our creation narrative, all-natural elements around us are senior to humanity and we are able to name the genealogical names that connect us,” he said.

“Like our Oceanic northern kin, with whom we have never lost whakapapa connections to, it is through, over the centuries, interacting with the local environments that Māori have developed a wealth of environmental knowledge, with the lessons being learned having become incorporated into traditional and modern practices of agriculture, fishing, medicine, education and conservation.

“Online forums enable all indigenous to share their genius, reclaim our commonalities always in the spirit of care of creation and our unique indigenous place in that narrative and all its good works.”

The conference is being held in preparation for the General Assembly of the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO).

The conference format will be framed by processes of storytelling, reflection and theological dialogue, akin to cultural experiences of Talanoa or yarning-circle style conversations.

Practical theologians from within Oceania will share their deep understanding of the gifts Oceania has received.

According to the conference outline, the conference’s purpose is to listen to diverse voices of creation and cultures of people in Oceania.

It seeks to offer a platform to share stories and amplify vulnerable voices, which can be heard by decision-makers at local, regional and global levels both in and outside the church and encourage a synodal dialogue generating commitment from the FCBCO member countries.

The ACU told CathNews Monday that First Nation voices of Pacific islands are deliberately being held up at the conference, and there will be more focus on Māori in four years time when the FCBCO conference is held in Australia.

FCBCO member countries include American Samoa, Cook Islands, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Marian Island, Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna, and expert contributors to the conference from Fiji, Tonga, Niue and Australia.

The FCBCO meets every four years. Their next assembly will be held in the Archdiocese of Suva, Fiji, from February 5-10, 2023.


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