WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Archbishop speaks to Samoans of forgiveness and healing after rifts in community


Cecily McNeill
4 April 2011

Sacred Heart Cathedral was overflowing for a special Mass for the Samoan Chaplaincy on Sunday February 20, the seventh week in Ordinary Time.

This followed an address to the Samoan community the previous Saturday when Archbishop John Dew explained events of the past several months which had led to divisions within the community. Chaplaincy lay pastoral leader Mikaele Teofilo said there were many people at the Mass whom he had not seen before.

altArchbishop John recalled a line from the film Invictus about Nelson Mandela and his support of the South African rugby Team who won the World Cup.

‘The Springbok Rugby Team visited Robben Island where Nelson Mandela had been in prison for almost 30 years. When they came out of the prison the captain of the Springboks said…..”How could anyone be put in jail for all that time, and come out forgiving those who put him there?”’

That is what Jesus asks us to do over and over again. This is an invitation to us to be like Jesus, to be like God.
‘My favourite invitation is “Remain in my love”. Others include “Come, follow me,”, “listen”, “take, eat and drink.”
All of these tell us something of the nature of God who is always gracious and kind to us.

Archbishop John told the congregation that the gospel of the day invited all to enter into the mind and heart of Jesus – to think and act as Jesus thought and acted.

You have heard it said, “you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy”. But I say to you, love your neighbours and pray for those who persecute you.
Jesus’ way of thinking and acting is different from the way of the world.

‘We are called to be like God.’
One way is by our willingness to forgive as God forgives … knowing that only God can give us the grace to do that. ‘I can’t do it by myself; you can’t do it by yourselves either.’

‘Sadly we have all been marked, scarred by the events of the past week – and of the past several months.
‘I have been scarred, I have been marked; you have been hurt, and feel fakama about the bad name of the Samoan community in the church and in Wellington. Because we believe in God’s love and forgiveness we too are to be men and women, families and friends of love and forgiveness. The gospel invites us to do that, we choose to make a response – the Jesus response.’

altReferring to the words of the Lord to Moses in the first reading from Leviticus, “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people … do not bear hatred’, Archbishop John said every one of us wanted to be the best human beings we possibly can be, with God’s help. We are always at our best when we try, in our human weakness and frailty, to be holy and [this] actually makes us more like God.

‘With all the difficulties of the last few months some people have said “Things will go back to what they were” – they cannot, but we can emerge new and renewed through this experience. Our parishes, our communities will be enriched and we will all be better people, but as I said last week it means all of us working together, including those who walked out of this cathedral last Saturday.’

In the words of St Paul in the day’s second reading, ‘we are already holy because we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We therefore act in holy ways – no revenge, no getting even. We correct others, but do so in love and with mercy.

‘Above all we remember everything that we have is God’s gift to us and therefore there is no place for division or scandal.

‘Nelson Mandela could come out of jail after all those years with no bitterness in his heart … because he had time to reflect and ponder and he knew deep in his heart that the only way to reconciliation was to forgive and try to move ahead to something new … South Africa is now a different place. There are still troubles, but they have moved forward.

‘When you and I try to act and think as Jesus [did] we too will build a different place, a chaplaincy that looks to the needs of others and serves people as Jesus served and, at the same time, we will enrich our parishes.’