Sunday, 15 February 2015

King and Queen of Tonga watched on as the first Tongan Cardinal was created

Newly-created Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga received the red three-cornered biretta hat from Pope Francis
Among the 20 new Church leaders that Pope Francis made members of the College of Cardinals on Saturday was Bishop Soane Patita Mafi from the Polynesian archipelago of Tonga in the Pacific Ocean. At just 53 years of age, he becomes the youngest member of the College of Cardinals, as well as the first man in the history of this young Church to receive this honour.

He heads a small scattered diocese in a population of about 106,000 people with Catholics making up just 15% but they are very active in the faith. Almost the whole nation is Christian, he said, with Methodists as the majority denomination. Tonga's royal family are also Wesleyan Methodists.

Cardinal Mafi tells Radio Vatican the story of how he met the King and Queen of Tonga for a regular New Year greeting on 1st January and learnt that they were planning a trip to Rome in February. When he heard the news that he had been appointed a member of the College of Cardinals, he realised that the consistory would take place during the same time as their visit, thus they were able to share in the joy and celebration for all the people of the Kingdom of Tonga.

Pope Francis received Their Majesties King Tupou VI of Tonga and Queen Nanasipau’u Tuku’aho in an audience in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican Monday, 17th February 2015.

A statement released by the Vatican’s Press Office said:

His Majesty first expressed his satisfaction at the election of the first Cardinal from the Pacific archipelago, Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, underlining the enthusiasm of the population and the presence of Her Majesty the Queen and numerous Tongans at the Ordinary Public Consistory held on 14th February. During the cordial discussions, attention was paid to the recent political developments in the country and on a number of aspects of social and economic life, as well as the positive contribution of the Catholic Church in various areas of society. There was subsequently an exchange of opinions on the international situation, with particular reference to the insular States of the Pacific and the environmental problems that some of them are compelled to face.

Pope Francis meets Their Majesties King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau’u Tuku’aho of Tonga

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