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A Common Concern: Poverty in the Lands of Plenty




11 September 2008

A Common Concern: Poverty in the Lands of Plenty


New Zealand and Australian Catholic Bishops have found common concern in the plight of the poor in their respective countries this month.

In the run up to next week’s Social Justice Week (14-20 September), New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops issued a statement Poverty in an Affluent Society. They restated the Church’s commitment to working for people’s material as well as spiritual wellbeing, and noted that the economic growth over the last 10 years had not been shared by all.

Coincidentally, Australia’s Catholic Bishops have struck a similar theme for their Social Justice Sunday on 28 September. In A rich young nation: the challenge of affluence and poverty in Australia, they acknowledge that many Australians have been denied a fair share in the prosperity flowing from 15 years of economic growth in Australia. 

The New Zealand Church celebrates Social Justice Week each September as a time for reflection and action on topical social issues. This year’s theme – of poverty in the midst of abundance – is fleshed out in resources produced by Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, the Bishops’ agency for social justice.

Its core booklet, Look and look again: Poverty in an affluent society includes the Bishops’ statement, as well as stories from Catholic social justice and social service agencies, highlighting the experience of poverty in this country.

Caritas Director Michael Smith says the theme is a challenge to Catholics and others to look at our society with fresh eyes. “It’s been inspired by Jesus’ words to his disciples in Matthew 13: ‘You will listen and listen again, but not understand; look and look again but not perceive’.” 

“These words are an invitation to look beyond the surface of the issues, to try to perceive poverty from the point of view of those experiencing financial hardship,” says Mr Smith. 

Mr Smith said the wellbeing of New Zealand’s poorest citizens continues to cause concern despite a decade of additional social investment and monitoring. “How we care for our most vulnerable New Zealanders needs to be the focus of election debates and discussion.”

Social Justice Week resources have been distributed to all New Zealand Catholic parishes, primary schools and youth contacts, as well as other groups in the community.  Additional resources are available from the Caritas office: or 04-496-1742. 



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