by NZ Catholic staff
VATICAN –New Zealand Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae has invited Pope Francis to visit the country during an audience with the Holy Father yesterday.
In his Facebook page, the governor-general described the meeting as
“a very special occasion for us today”.
“Pope Francis was well informed about NZ. He was most interested in hearing about people. I did say to him that he would get a better impression of NZ and us if he was to visit,” he said.
A statement released by the Vatican said the conversation had focused on the economic and social life of New Zealand, the contributions of the Catholic Church, regional development, and peace missions.The meeting between the Pope and the governor-general was the first in history.
Governor-General gave the Pope a carved pounamu and the Pope gave the Governor-General an ornate pen. Sir Jerry told Pope Francis that he will be using the pen a lot.
The governor general’s office consulted historian Gavin McLean and ascertained no governor-general has ever met the pope in Rome. Mr McLean is a senior historian with the History Group of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and author of Governors: New Zealand’s Governors and Governors-General (2006).
The first meeting between a Catholic pope and a New Zealand governor-general was when Pope John Paul II visited the country in
1986. He was given a state welcome by then-Governor General, Sir Paul Reeves, and Prime Minister David Lange.
Papal Nuncio Archbishop Martin Krebs explained the diplomatic relations between New Zealand and the Holy See were established only on 20 June 1973.
“High level meetings before that date are not probable,” he said.
Sir Jerry and his wife Lady Janine are on a two-week trip to New York, Italy and Ethiopia.
Archbishop Krebs said the governor general is in Italy not only to pay a visit to the Holy Father, but also for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the destruction of the Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino during World War II.
by NZ Catholic staff