The Wellington Archbishop named today by Pope Francis in the batch of new cardinals says the appointment came as a big surprise.
Archbishop John Atcherley Dew says he is "humbled and honoured" to be one of 20 new cardinals appointed from 14 countries around the world, including at least one from every continent.
Mr Dew studied at the Holy Cross College is Mosgiel before being ordained as a priest and posted to the Diocese of Wellington in 1976. Thirty years later he was made Archbishop of Wellington when cardinal Thomas Williams retired.
Cardinals were chosen from all over the world including Tongan Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafia. He joins others from France, Portugal, Ethiopia, Italy, Vietnam, Myanmar, Uruguay, Tonga and Panama.
Pope Francis says his wide-ranging selection emphasised the Vatican's "inseparable bond" with Catholic Churches around the world.
Fifteen of the new appointees are under 80, making them eligible to enter a conclave to elect the Pope's successor. They will be formally installed on February 14.
Last January Pope Francis named 19 new additions, including churchmen from Haiti and Burkina Faso, which a Vatican spokesman said reflected his commitment to the poor.
He has now chosen over a quarter of all cardinals able to vote for the next Pope.
He posted on Facebook today his thanks for all the messages of support he had received, adding "it seems some of you heard the announcement before I did".
"Needless to say I am humbled and honoured by His Holiness' announcement and what this means for the Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Oceania," he said.
"For the wider Oceania region I am excited in the news that Bishop Soane Mafi from Tonga has also been named."