Filipino bishop appointed to Cook Islands

new bishop

Pope Francis has appointed Reverend Father Reynaldo Bunyi Getalado (right) as the Cook Islands’ new coadjutor bishop.

As a coadjutor bishop, Getalado takes over responsibility for the diocese when the current Cook Islands bishop Paul Donoghue SM retires.

Getalado, who is from the Philippines, has worked in Papua New Guinea, New Zealand in the Waitaruke and Ōtara parishes as well as the Solomon Islands (Bougainville) and Tuvalu.

When he served in Ōtara he came into contact with Pasifika people, including Cook Islanders, for the first time.

Why appoint a Filipino to the Cook Islands?

Just why a Filipino priest has been appointed to replace New Zealand-born Donoghue is a question on many people’s lips. Cook Islanders are New Zealand citizens, after all.

Donoghue says the answer lies in the makeup of the Church which is constantly changing throughout the world.

Nor have the Cook Islands always had New Zealand-born bishops, he notes.

He says the Cook Islands’ first three bishops (1894-1971) were from France, Belgium and the Netherlands respectively.

The next five bishops were chosen from New Zealand. The problem is that these days New Zealand-born and -trained priests are in the minority, he says.

Today, the New Zealand clergy is made up of many priests from Asia and the Pacific, Donoghue explains.

“It must be close to half.

“Three-quarters of the seminarians are from Asia. That means if a new bishop is appointed from New Zealand, it is likely to be one of Asian origin” Donoghue says.

Joy in preparation

Preparations are well underway for Getalado’s ordination.

Hospitality sounds boundless, with both the Catholic diocese of the Cook Islands and the Filipino Community there rolling up their sleeves.

We are “one in supporting his pastoral mission” says Grace Scheel, president of the Filipino Community.

“We hope that his presence will mean a deeper relationship between the Catholic Church and the faithful.”

Getalado’s vision

Getalado says as a young priest he was prepared to work in challenging places that were tough physically. Now he is in his 60s, he would like to develop the spirituality of the people he is working with.

Given that finding new bishop replacements is becoming difficult, Donoghue sums up his last dream as the Cook Islands’ retiring bishop in six words:

“You now have your new shepherd.”


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