Sir Paul Reeves, New Zealand archbishop and statesman, dies at 78

August 14, 2011

Sir Paul Reeves, a former Anglican archbishop and primate who became New Zealand's first Maori governor general, died on Aug. 14 from cancer at the age of 78.

His body was taken on Aug. 15 to Holy Sepulchre Church in Auckland, where members of his tribe, Te Atiawa, welcomed the hearse with a waita, or song. More than 5,000 people are expected to pay their respects during the tangi, or Maori lying-in-state mourning ritual.

Maori bishop Kito Pikaahu said in a tribute that the church was very special to Reeves. "As the bishop of Auckland and the archbishop of New Zealand, he had much to do with the Maori mission, so he wanted the church to be able to welcome people here and to allow people to come from all over the place and gather together and remember a place that was very dear to him," Pikaahu said. The Maori, New Zealand's indigenous people, represent about 15 percent of the population of 4.4 million.

Prime Minister John Key announced that Reeves' body will be taken on Aug. 18 to Holy Trinity Cathedral in Auckland for a state funeral.

Key said Reeves was one of New Zealand's greatest statesmen whose tenure was one of inclusiveness and compassion. "He modeled his governorship on the life of a bishop saying; 'a bishop travels, a bishop stands alongside his people and searches for common ground.' We are indebted."

Anglican Archbishop David Moxon said that Reeves, in taking the office of bishop and archbishop into the role of governor general, aimed to bring people together, to listen to people at the edges and to speak to issues. "He was always present amongst the people ... Bishop Paul was and remains a taonga (treasure) to us and future generations."

Reeves entered the priesthood in 1960. He became bishop of Waiapu in 1971 and bishop of Auckland in 1979. He served as primate and Archbishop of New Zealand from 1980 to 1985. He was then appointed governor general, the representative of the British monarch, and served from 1985 to 1990.

Reeves also chaired a review of the Fijian Constitution and served as Anglican Observer at the United Nations from 1991-1993. He was knighted in 1985 and in 2007 was admitted to the Order of New Zealand, the country's highest honor.

In a statement, Reeves' family acknowledged they were "very aware of the immense grief and loss felt by Maori, the church and the wider community." Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand said Reeves "brought to all his work a quiet determination and a strong moral compass founded on Christian values and social justice."

Reeves is survived by his wife, Lady Beverly Reeves, three daughters and six grandchildren.

The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, described Reeves as "a towering figure in the recent history of his native New Zealand and in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Reconciliation and service were his watchwords, and as bishop, archbishop and as governor general he expressed in his life the gospel imperative of reconciliation and the breaking down of barriers of all kinds in church and society.

"He celebrated and brought to prominence his Maori heritage in the life of the nation and the church in a way that honored and respected all ... With his death the church and the global community have lost one of its great iconic figures. I extend my prayerful sympathy to Lady Beverley and her family."

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