Father stood down over statues of Mary and Jesus

By Ilia L. Likou ,

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A MOMENT TO REMEMBER:  Pope Francis with Toa Opapo and her father, Reverend Opapo So'ana'i in Rome.

A MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Pope Francis with Toa Opapo and her father, Reverend Opapo So'ana'i in Rome. (Photo: Supplied)

The father of a woman who claims to be carrying the marks of Jesus Christ’s suffering has been stripped off his roles by the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S).

Reverend Opapo So’ana’i, who currently looks after the Siufaga C.C.C.S parish, confirmed the decision during an interview with the Sunday Samoan.

But he has questioned the conflicting reasons offered by different officials of the church as to why he has been stood down.

“They’re giving me conflicting reasons,” Rev. Soana’i said. “On Monday, Senara called to inform me that I had been stripped of all my duties. I asked him why and he said it’s because of the statues of Mary and Jesus inside our church."

“So our congregation has written to them. I will not leave because of this." 

For your information, the Church’s Constitution dictates that if a Pastor sins, the Elder of the Pulega should summon him. If the sin is proven, then he should be summoned by the Elders of the Matagaluega and then eventually the Elders Committee.

“In my case, this is the first case where I haven’t been summoned by the Pulega, or by the Matagaluega, not even the Elders Committee and yet I have been penalised. So our parish has written to them to express that the manner in which this decision has been made is unloving and communist-like.”

Rev. Soana’i said the second reason offered for his dismissal, as he was informed by the Secretary of the Elders Committee, is that he has disobeyed orders.

“So I asked, what order have I disobeyed? They said I was disobedient when I went to take my daughter to Rome. They said I should’ve just taken her there and come back right away.”

Rev. Soana’i denies that he had been disobedient.

“I told them I was going to be back after the 18th December which is what I did. I came back on the 20th but I got stuck in New Zealand when my flight was delayed. I was here before Christmas. I only found when I arrived that I had been relieved of my duties and that’s why we’ve written to them. We want to know why.”

Rev. Soana’i protested his innocence saying he has done nothing wrong.

“There is no clause of the Church Constitution that I have violated. I was initially reluctant to talk about this but it’s because I now have two conflicting stories about what they’ve done to me that I want to know the truth.”

Asked if his daughter’s decision to convert to Catholicism has anything to do with what has happened, Rev. Soana’i said he has always respected the church he took an oath to serve. 

“The truth is I have the utmost respect for the Elders Committee. For your information, when they stopped me on 28th August from helping my daughter asking that I let her go on her own, I obeyed because I respected them."

“Up until now, there were seven revelations in Rome, and three this year, I haven’t spoken about anything. The first message in Rome was about the Chairman of the Church but I haven’t said anything. I cannot discuss that with you. We will wait until Toa returns, you will find out eventually everything that happened in Rome.”

Rev. Soanai said the decision by the church has taken him by surprise, especially after a meeting he had with representatives of the Matagaluega Aana, Lefaga, Alofi and Manono on 4 January 2017 where he was assured that nothing would happen to him.

“I’ve been mistreated for something I’m not sure what it is.”

Told that perhaps the leadership of the church is unhappy about the emphasis on the statues of Mary and Jesus placed in their church since his daughter started to receive messages, Rev. Soana’i said that could possibly be the case.  

But they cannot stand him down for something like that.

“I haven’t done anything wrong. I haven’t committed adultery, I haven’t used any of the church’s money and I haven’t been caught drunk. 

“In the Church Constitution, there is nothing in there against statues of Mary and Jesus. 

If you look at all the churches, there are images of Jesus and Mary everywhere. Those are statues too.”

Rev. Soana’i added that he did not acquire the statues himself.

“See, I didn’t get those statues myself. They were brought over as a present and our church membership are fearful to reject it because they are of Jesus and Mary. If it was of anything else, then they might’ve considered rejecting it.”

There is a history to the statues. 

“When the statues were brought over, Toa received a message which said “if anyone rejects them, they will suffer forever…”

“So what we are saying is that if they want to remove it, they can come and do it themselves but we can’t because we received the translated message in Hebrew.

“This translation came from the Malua Theological College where the Hebrew language is taught. 

“Our congregation will not stop anyone who wants to remove them but we are fearful because we are aware of what the translation of the message from the Hebrew language said.

As for his daughter Toa, Rev. Soana’i said she remains in Rome to await the outcome of an investigation carried out by Catholic officials to confirm her stigmata claims.

“My hope is that the investigation will be of higher standard to prove this thing.”

But what will he do next?

“I don’t mind if they strip me off my roles and responsibilities. But they cannot stop me from talking about the truth. If I lose my duties and appointments because of the statue of Mary and Jesus, I’d be very happy (because I stood for something I believe in).”

It was not possible to get an official comment from the church at press time.

 

Father pays price for daughter’s mission

Last year, Rev. Soana’i’s daughter, Toaipuapua Opapo Patrick, claimed to be carrying the marks of Jesus Christ’s suffering. Rev. Soanai has been a strong supporter of his daughter who has since converted to Catholicism. He accompanied her to Rome recently where her stigmata claims are being investigated.Speaking to the Samoa Observer last year, Toa said converting to the Catholic faith is the only way she can continue her mission from God.

 “I am a messenger and I want to continue the work that I have been sent to do,” she said.

“I know the majority of the people misunderstand almost everything I say, they twist it. But being chosen by God as a messenger is something I did not ask for. He chooses whoever he wants as a messenger.” 

Toa said she could not wait for the leadership of the C.C.C.S to make up their minds about accepting her and most importantly the messages she was “receiving from God.”

 “We don’t have that much time to prepare and get things done because God gave us this mission to complete right on time,” she said. “So we don’t want to just sit around and wait for everyone to agree. We wanted to continue our mission and I feel this is the only way.” 

She added that while she continues to be fully supportive of her parents' work as Church Ministers of the C.C.C.S, some recent developments have left her with no choice but to become a Catholic.

“The elders of the church (C.C.C.S) are trying to stop us from spreading the messages and my father was instructed to distant himself from what’s going on with me,” she said. “He was told to remove the statues from inside the church.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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