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Maori Party Mourns the Loss of a ‘Radical Bishop’

Maori Party Mourns the Loss of a ‘Radical Bishop’

Dr Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia, Co-leaders of the Maori Party

Friday 14 September 2007

Aue, aue! Kua tau te hau tonga, ara te hau makariri o te ringa kaha o Aitua. Kei te rangatira, kei te Pihopa Matamua, haere atu ra ki o taua tupuna matua. He whariki mo matou nga morehu o nga waka. Haere te rangatira, haere.

The Maori Party today expressed its sadness at the passing of the first Maori Bishop of the Anglican Church and the former Archbishop of New Zealand, the Most Reverend Whakahuihui Vercoe.

“Bishop Vercoe lived a life which fully reflected the spirit of his name, Whakahuihui, to gather together” said Dr Pita Sharples.

“Whether in the bringing together of his whanau from across Tainui, Tuhoe, Te Arawa, Whakatohea and Pakeha whakapapa, or in articulating a vision of nationhood, the Bishop was always committed to bringing people together” said Dr Sharples.

“Tangata whenua remember vividly the day in April 1981, at Houmaitawhiti Marae on the shores of Lake Rotoiti, where he became consecrated; the first Pihopa o Aotearoa to be elected by Maori” said Dr Sharples.

“And we all remember just as vividly the revolutionary address he gave on Waitangi Day 1990 in front of two Queens – the late Dame Te Atairangikaahu and Queen Elizabeth II”.

“In that address, the Bishop issued a staunch challenge: “Our partners have marginalised us. You have not honoured the Treaty. The language of this land is yours, the custom is yours, the media by which we tell the world who we are, are yours” recalled Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party.

“Apparently Queen Elizabeth asked the Governor General of the day, “Is this a radical bishop?”’ reflected Mrs Turia. “To which Sir Paul Reeves replied, “No Ma’am. But he’s doing pretty well”.

“I would say that if ‘radical’ is to address the fundamental nature of any issue, then Bishop Vercoe has indeed done very well on many fronts” said Mrs Turia.

“Bishop Vercoe was one of the leaders of the 1998 Hikoi of Hope to bring attention to the issues of poverty; he was part of the ‘No Maoris, No Tour’ movement during the 1960s to confront apartheid; more recently he spoke out against the futility of war while at the same time laying a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal on behalf of Maori Veterans of the Viet Nam war” said Mrs Turia.

“His contribution to the Anglican Church was extremely significant” said Dr Sharples. “He was instrumental in establishing the Minita-a-iwi programme (through which local preachers are authorised to celebrate the sacraments, and perform marriages and bapitisms); he fought for access to a financial basis for the Pihopatanga; and it was through his leadership that Te Whare Wananga o Pihopatanga o Aotearoa was built, enabling education to Masters Level”.

“Te Pihopa Matamua (Archbishop) was also a key force in setting out the vision of the radically new, three tikanga structure for the Anglican church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia” said Mrs Turia.

“That structure is now represented in an impressive model of shared leadership with Bishop Brown Turei (Te Pihopa o Aotearoa), Bishop Jabez Bryce (Pasefika) and Bishop David Moxon (Pakeha) each carrying the title of Archbishop and Co-presiding Bishop”.

“At this time we also reflect on the struggle that Te Pihopa had in reconciling his concerns over the ordination of women into the church, and his views regarding homosexuality” said Mrs Turia.

“We will remember him as a tenacious, distinguished and courageous leader who has made an enduring contribution to our maturing sense of nationhood” said Mrs Turia.

“Our aroha goes to Doris, to all his whanau, hapu and iwi, and to Te Haahi Mihinare at this sad time”.


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