Cardinal John Dew


Dew was born in Waipawa, the son of George and Joan Dew. He has two sisters. He attended St. Joseph’s Primary School in Waipukurau (staffed by the Sisters of St Joseph of Nazareth) and St Joseph’s College, Masterton (staffed by the Marist Brothers). He then went to the Marist Brothers Juniorate in Tuakau for a short time.[1] After about a year working at the Bank of New Zealand in Waipukurau, Anderson’s Nurseries in Napier[1] and studying horticulture,[2] he commenced his studies for the priesthood at Holy Name Seminary, Christchurch where he studied Philosophy under Jesuit professors for two years and then for five years he studied Theology at Holy Cross Seminary, Mosgiel under the Vincentians. He played rugby union for the Holy Cross Seminary team in the position of prop.[3]


Dew was ordained priest at Waipukurau by Cardinal Reginald Delargey in May 1976. He was appointed as an assistant priest in St Joseph’s Parish, Upper Hutt 1976–79. He served in the Cook Islands in the Diocese of Rarotonga from 1980 until 1982. He returned to Wellington. From 1983 to 1987 he had responsibility for the Archdiocesan Youth Ministry and the Cook Islands Māori Community.[4]

Seminary director

Dew was on the staff of Holy Cross College, Mosgiel, the New Zealand national seminary, from 1988 to 1991. He was director of a special programme focussing on human development and giving a general introduction to first year students on prayer, scripture and the Church. He also led small groups of students (“moderator groups”) who met regularly for prayer and discussion.[5] During his time at the seminary a major concern related to the selection of seminarians. In his 1991 First Year Moderators Report, Dew expressed a real sense of frustration at the unsuitability of many students. He pointed out that “we at the Seminary can work only with those who are sent to us.” Many, he suggested, were sent with unresolved issues relating to identity, sexuality and alcohol. Such students placed a heavy burden on staff and had a negative impact upon other students and group dynamics. Dew urged that in the future, diocesan vocations directors pay particular attention to eight issues with evaluating prospective students: basic knowledge of the Catholic faith; familiarity with meditation, prayer and the scriptures; a reasonable comfort with affectivity; personal independence; social comfort; intellectual curiosity; generosity; and a genuine desire and free decision to enter the seminary.[5]

Parish priest

Dew studied spirituality at the Institute of St. Anselm, Kent, United Kingdom, in 1991 and 1992. On his return to New Zealand he was appointed the parish priest at St. Anne’s Parish, Newtown, a post he held from 1993 to 1995.[4]


He was appointed as auxiliary bishop for the Wellington archdiocese on 31 May 1995 at the age of 47. The news of his appointment had been announced to a large congregation at the Chrism Mass on 12 April. “The news was greeted with prolonged and enthusiastic applause”.[6] Because Sacred Heart Cathedral would not have held the expected congregation, he was consecrated bishop in the Wellington Town Hall which was filled to capacity. He took as his motto Peace through Integrity. [6] He became the Secretary of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference and acted as New Zealand Bishops’ Conference representative on the National Council for Young Catholics.[4]


Dew was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Wellington on 24 May 2004 and he succeeded Thomas Stafford Williams as Archbishop of Wellington on 21 March 2005.[4] Dew was appointed as coadjutor by Pope John Paul II who Dew considered as a friend and in discourse Dew often refers to him. He has spoken of celebrating Mass in the Pope’s private chapel and of having lunch with him.[7] Dew attended the Synod of Bishops on “The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church” in October 2005 (see below).[8] In 2012 he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to serve as a Synod father for the October 2012 Synod of Bishops on “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”.[9] He was the “relator” for one of the large English-speaking groups in the 2014 Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.[9] He felt that the synod was an attempt to put Collegiality into action[10] and he has said that he got to know Pope Francis “a little better” during that 2014 Synod.[11] Dew is President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Bishop of the Military Ordinariate of New Zealand, Bishops’ conference Deputy for the National Committee for Professional Standards and for Finance and Moderator of the Tribunal. In 2015 he completed a term as President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO)[4][12] which comprises all the bishops of New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomons and the CEPAC bishops of the Pacific Islands.[9]


On 14 February 2015, Pope Francis appointed Dew a cardinal with the title of Cardinal-Priest of Sant’Ippolito[13] at a Consistory for the creation of cardinals.[14][4][15][16] This followed a Consistory with all the Cardinals in order to “reflect on the proposed reform of the Roman Curia.” [15] John L. Allen, Jr., in commenting on the appointment, stated that Dew is a “high profile moderate” in the Catholic Church.[17][18] The appointment means that New Zealand has two cardinals at the same time, the other being Thomas Williams.[19] The other two cardinals from New Zealand are Reginald Delargey and Peter McKeefry.

On 13 April 2015, Dew was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He was a participant in the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (4–25 October 2015) on “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world”.[20]