Unintended mistakes ensured parallel Māori and European churches

devotion to mary

The Catholic Church throughout New Zealand made serious mistakes in its approach to Māori, and using te reo during Eucharist helps us become more inclusive even in our daily lives.

The comments about parish sacramental celebrations come from Palmerston North’s Bishop emeritus, Peter Cullinane, in an article published in Tui Motu.

Citing examples of the Church’s mistakes, Cullinane says the lack of training for diocesan priests in ministry to Māori combined with the Church entrusting the ‘Māori Mission’ to specialist groups ensures that most Māori do not feel ’at home’ in our parish church celebrations of Eucharist.

He says that developing a sense of inclusiveness does not come about by running parallel Māori and European churches.

“The Church in our country is greatly indebted to the Religious Orders to whom the ‘Māori Mission’ was entrusted,” he writes.

Cullinane mentions the Society of Mary, the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion, the Mill Hill Missionaries and the Congregation of Our Lady of the Missions in particular.

“Their work continues to bear fruit, and any alterations to pastoral practices need to safeguard the right of Māori to continue to experience life and worship in the Church in ways that are natural to them.”

Nevertheless, Cullinane says, running a Māori Mission parallel to parishes had serious unintended side effects.

He writes it is against that background that introducing te reo into parish Eucharists seems a tiny gesture – but it is about recognition of tangata whenua, inclusion and belonging.

“Of course, it would be mere tokenism if it were not to follow through in all the ways required by respect for the rights of Māori in wider society and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

Our celebrations of the Eucharist are meant to feed into our daily lives, Cullinane points out.

“Eucharistic life involves the rejection of racial prejudice and discrimination wherever these occur.

“In this way, the use of te reo in parish Eucharists should whet our appetites for the kind of hospitality, listening, sense of community and inclusiveness we have been talking about on the synodal journey.”

He suggests that the next step is to experience Eucharist on a marae and recognise Māori’s warm and welcoming ways.

“This way, people can see how these properly belong to the gathering stage of coming together for Eucharist.

“Respect for the rights of the home people can be only a first step in our reaching out to the many others in our society who suffer from inequalities …

“It also involves our support for other ethnic groups who can be victims of racial prejudice. Anything less than a prophetic stand for all these is less than Eucharistic.”

Failure to address prejudice or help people disadvantaged by personal, social or economic conditions, proves the Second Vatican Council’s claim:

“The split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age,” writes Cullinane.


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News category: New Zealand, Palmerston.

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