Homily for Service to Commemorate the Coronation of King Tuheitia
Cardinal John Dew
21st August 2019
E te Ariki Nui, Kīngi Tūheitia
E te whare o te Kāhui Ariki
E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā iwi,
tēnā koutou katoa.
It is an honour to be here today. Thank you, Your Majesty, for the honour and the privilege extended to me in the invitation to preach at this service today.
A few weeks ago, as many of you know, King Tuheitia and Consort Makau Ariki Atawhai were received in a private audience with His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican. A report of that meeting later said “you could feel the warmth and the sense of connection with each other – Pope and King…it was like a sign that the Pope is in tune with the issues that face indigenous peoples…they spoke about issues pertaining to indigenous peoples and issues for Maori.”
I believe that it is true that the Pope is in tune with issues that face indigenous peoples. In fact just a few weeks ago, at the beginning of July, Pope Francis said in a little video clip “I want to be a spokesperson for the deeps longings of indigenous people” and to raise public awareness about the fact that indigenous peoples continue to be “threatened in their identity and even in their existence.”
In that same video clip, the Pope also said, “Individualism weakens community bonds.” We also know that it true, when people think only of themselves society suffers, their own communities suffer, families suffer…we need one another.
As Pope Francis and King Tuheitia met in Rome and found common ground and understanding, so we meet here today in Aotearoa, building our relationships and finding common ground.
Earlier words spoken by a Pope, not Pope Francis but Pope Saint John Paul II on his visit to Aotearoa New Zealand, almost the first words he said in public in New Zealand were to thank the Maori people of Aotearoa for their welcome to him – at the Domain in Auckland. Pope John Paul said thirty- three years ago, here in Aotearoa: “The strengths of the Maori culture are often the very values which modern society is in danger of losing; an acknowledgement of the spiritual dimension of every aspect of life; a profound reverence for nature and he environment; a sense of community assuring every individual that he or she belongs; loyalty to family and a great willingness to share; an acceptance of death as part of life and a capacity to grieve and mourn the dead in a human way.”
These values of Maori…spiritual dimension of life, reverence for nature and the environment , a sense of community, loyalty to family, a willingness to share, a capacity to grieve and mourn for our dead, are the same values the Catholic Community is concerned about, and especially for indigenous people – people whose identity and even existence are threatened.
They are also the concerns of King Tūheitia. In his speech at the Koroneihana last year you will remember he said: “Our ancestors created the Kīngitanga to foster unity and to help our people resist repression and oppose the further loss of our lands.” His Majesty had wonderful words right at the end of his speech, simple and profound words: “Be kind to one another, be strong and look after yourselves.”
The above words of King Tūheitia could well be taken from the Gospel we have just heard, the words of Jesus commonly known as the Beatitudes: “Be kind to one another, be strong and look after yourselves.”
Pope Francis said last year “The Beatitudes are like a Christian’s identity card…in the Beatitudes we find a portrait of the Master which we are called to reflect in our daily lives”. He calls the Beatitudes a “life plan”, a plan which is “really simple and really difficult”, and he says “”Some think that holiness is closing your eyes and making the face of a plastic statue, but that’s not holiness”.
This is the life plan for holiness as explained by Pope Francis:
Being poor of heart: that is holiness
Reacting with meekness and humility: that is holiness
Knowing how to mourn with others: that is holiness
Hungering and thirsting for righteousness: that is holiness
Seeing and acting with mercy: that is holiness
Keeping a heart free of all that tarnishes love: that is holiness
Sowing peace all around us: that is holiness.
Each one of us will have one of the Beatitudes which challenges us or appeals to us most. For me that Beatitude is “Blessed are the merciful, for they will find mercy”. Seeing and acting with mercy – these are the people who forgive, who understand others’ mistakes, who look for ways to restore relationship rather than take revenge. We all make mistakes, but we are all forgiven, which we can forget when we feel wounded or taken advantage of.
Mercy has two facets, forgiving and helping others. Sometimes it is in the helping that we find we are able to forgive. Mercy is closely tied to compassion, the ability to enter into the experience and feelings of others. Mercy and compassion are the basis for reconciliation and for forgiveness.
Sometimes concepts and virtues such as mercy and compassion can feel too vague, too big, too “out there” for us to grasp and make part of our lives in a concrete way. So we can start with a simpler, more practical word – kindness: Be kind to one another, be strong, and look after yourselves.
Nō reira, Therefore
e te Kīngi o te Kotahi – tanga King of Unity
e te iwi Peoples (tribes)
kia tau mai te rangimārie may peace be upon
ki a koutou katoa. you all.
Tēnā tātou katoa. Greetings to all.