Presbyterian and Catholic Dialogue - 20th Oct 2020

For the past 10 years, I have enjoyed being part of the Presbyterian / Roman Catholic Dialogue. This was
established in New Zealand in 1981 and centred in Dunedin. The aim of the Dialogue was to bring about
friendship and a greater understanding between the two churches.

Many discussion papers on matters of great importance to both Churches were presented to the Dialogue
throughout these early years, and this practice continues to this day.

As well as working at a Theological level, it was also seen to be essential to work for understanding and
reconciliation at the parish level. To this end, a discussion programme ‘Seven C’s to Unity’ was prepared
based on Covenant, Co-existence, Co-operation, Commitment, Communion and Celebration. The programme proved to be very popular within the many combined parish groups as it helped participants bring into the open deep differences, questions, misunderstandings and hurts. The Spirit-led process that followed helped heal the rift between the two traditions and was truly remarkable.

In the following years, two large city-wide events were initiated by the Dialogue. In 1988 an ecumenical
celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Otago was marked by a Vigil on Good Friday evening. Then on
the first Sunday in 2000, an ecumenical Celebration Service was held in St Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate
the Millennium. In recognition of Otago’s Christian forbears, a large, beautiful Celtic Cross was erected
in Dunedin’s Queens Garden. The Good Friday Vigil continues annually to this day, taking the form of a
‘Meditation on the Cross’ and alternates between Knox and Holy Name churches, North Dunedin.

The Presbyterian / Catholic Dialogue has been a success in meeting most of its aims. Presbyterians and
Catholics are now comfortable in each others company, whether in a shared church service, a helping
organisation or in social settings. Many lasting, deep friendships have been formed, and hopefully, the
scandal of Christian disunity will soon be completely in the past.

Maureen Smith 2020

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