In memory of Bishop Paul Mea Kaiuea
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is saddened to hear of the passing of Bishop Paul Mea Kaiuea, MSC, former Bishop of Tarawa and Nauru, whose funeral is today. Caritas joins with the Catholic community in Kiribati and Nauru, the i-Kiribati community in Aotearoa and all who are mourning the loss of this strong but gentle man.
“It was a pleasure to accompany him and his diocesan workers to protect and enhance the lives of i-Kiribati people through shared development and advocacy work,” said Caritas Director Julianne Hickey.
Bishop Mea was ordained a priest in the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1969, appointed to Bishop in 1978 and retired as Bishop of Tarawa and Nauru in June 2020. (He will be succeeded as Bishop by Bishop-elect Fr Koru Tito.)
Faced with the challenges of a widely dispersed diocese and environmental pressures such as climate change, Bishop Mea was a strong defender of the right of i-Kiribati to live on their islands, free from further harm.
In the face of sea level rise and increasingly higher king tides, he said: “We should be able to live on them [the atolls] without being forced to move by environmental issues.”
He raised concerns directly with the Kiribati government about plans to mine the seafloor for minerals, aware of the impact it could have on people’s basic livelihoods:
The reef is the source of all life in the sea including fish… But the Kiribati people depend entirely on fish. The life in the sea is interconnected, and once you destroy one part, say the reef, you will affect the whole life of the sea including the fish. For me, the deep sea mining is an evil that should be never allowed to take place.
Caritas staff give thanks to God for his service and life for the mission of the church. It was a privilege to know him and serve with him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his Diocese, his order, and all i-Kiribati who are mourning his loss. May he rest in peace.