The Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Samoa, Alapati Lui Mataeliga, has cautioned Samoans against drawing conclusions in the case of a young woman who claims to be carrying the marks of Jesus Christ’s suffering.
Speaking about 23-year-old mother, Toaipuapuaga Opapo, whose story has become the talking point for the nation, the Archbishop says people should take their time to reflect and find the true meaning of the event.
“We know from the history of the church that its normally Catholics who have this,” Archbishop Mataeliga told Talamua Media.
“Personally, to have something like this happen to a young Samoan lady whose parents belong to the E.F.K.S, to me that is a blessing. It tells us that God doesn’t differentiate between people. He is a God for everyone and he chooses whoever he wants to use to send us a message.”
And God often chooses the lowly, the weak and humble, he said.
“If you observer this young lady carefully, she is very humble. She is someone who carries herself with so much humility.”
Archbishop Mataeliga added that such cases are not new in the Catholic Church. And with Toa being a member of the E.F.K.S, the Catholic Church has only become involved to offer support.
“They came to me and we decided to have a thanksgiving service,” he said about last Friday’s mass.
“We wanted to thank God for the blessing and the message. This is why the Catholic Church became involved… it is well known that Toa and her parents belong to the E.F.K.S church. They are waiting for their General meeting in May where they will raise the issue. But from the Catholic Church’s perspective, it’s more or less to support and offer our prayers.”
Asked about people criticizing Toa, the Archbishop said this is disappointing.
“People are free choose but I think it’s important to take our time, hear her out and not be quick to judge her.
“So even in the Catholic Church, we are not rushing into anything… I’ve spoken with her father and he said they are waiting for their Annual General meeting … and so we’re happy to offer prayers and wait. Let’s try and work out what God is telling us.
“I’m not pointing the finger at anybody in particular but to me the miracle in all this is a man’s heart, whether they receive it or reject it. If we receive it, there must be a change in our lives. So it’s not about pointing the finger and judging, it’s about hearing out what the message really is for us.”
The Archbishop was also asked if they plan to confirm Toa’s stigmata through the Catholic Church’s procedures.
“The Catholic church cannot make a decision because it’s happening in the E.F.K.S church… I respect that church and I leave it up to their free will.
“Should the E.F.K.S church consent… we can send it to the Vatican to assess… they are used to these sorts of things.”
Part of the examination will include Scientific tests and having someone to play the role of the “devils advocate” to try and disprove the claim. The Archbishop added that it is a long process that takes time.
In the meantime, he again cautions people about rushing to conclusions.
“As the Bible says, we need to discern the spirits,” he said.
“The reality of life is that people will always look to draw conclusions and make comparisons… but like I said we need to take it slow and listen deeply because there might be other messages behind what has happened, whether it has to do with the government, church, individuals or families.
“We can easily use this to point the finger to a certain group of people, for example we can say that this are happening because of the government, we can also say these things have happened because of the church… but we cannot be quick to draw a conclusion until we continue to observe the circumstances and what is happening.”
He concluded: “At the end of the day, we rely on the grace of God. It will never leave us and it’s not something we can buy with money. It is free. Whatever circumstances and natural disasters occur, the grace of our Lord remains, it will not be taken away.”