by MICHAEL OTTO
ROTORUA — Renowned American papal biographer and Vatican correspondent John L. Allen, Jr, will join former Dominican master general Fr Timothy Radcliffe and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila, as guest speakers at the national assembly of diocesan priests in Rotorua later this year, NZ Catholic understands.
Further details of the national gathering, including the topics the guest speakers will address, will be confirmed after the organising committee meets in early March.
It is understood the assembly, which could see 180 diocesan priests from throughout New Zealand attend, will be at the Sudima Hotel in Rotorua from September 16-20.
Organising committee chairman Msgr Paul Farmer of Auckland said this is an initiative of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, to invite diocesan priests to take a break, be together and renew and make friendships and enjoy some rest and recreation.
“The bishops, in initiating these assemblies, see them as showing support for their priests and recognising the contributions they make,” Msgr Farmer said.
It also allows priests who may be new to New Zealand to meet their confreres from other parts of the country.
Similar gatherings were held in Blenheim in 2003 and 2008, and these were very successful, Msgr Farmer added.
After the March meeting, each diocesan priest will receive an invitation to attend.
The assembly will be held during the Year of Faith.
“It would be hoped that the speakers would address some aspects of the New Evangelisation,” Msgr Farmer said.
During the assembly, it is expected that the priests will celebrate a Mass with local parishes, and there will also be a powhiri from Maori to welcome them.
Mr Allen, who visited New Zealand in 2006 and gave the inaugural NZ Catholic lecture, is the Rome-based senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, in which his column and blog “All Things Catholic” are very popular. He wrote two books on Pope Benedict XVI, one in 2000, before Cardinal Ratzinger was elected pope, and one just after his election. Mr Allen is also the Vatican analyst for CNN and National Public Radio in the United States.
Fr Radcliffe addressed the national priests assembly in Blenheim in 2003. Master of the Dominicans from 1992-2001, he is a speaker and writer of international repute.
In 2003, he was made an an honorary Doctor of Divinity in the University of Oxford, the university’s highest honorary degree. He was the winner of the The Michael Ramsey Prize for theological writing in 2007, for his book What Is the Point of Being a Christian?
Cardinal Tagle was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI at a consistory in November last year. At age 55, he is the second youngest cardinal in the world. John Allen has named him as a possible future papal candidate.
Writing in 2011, Allen described then-Archbishop Tagle as known for his humility, humour, warmth, simplicity, ability to explain complex theological ideas in layman’s terms, while not being afraid to raise questions about controversial Church issues. He added that the archbishop was a “gifted communicator, making him a highly sought-after speaker and media personality”.
by MICHAEL OTTO