Late archbishop remembered as congress starts

By Talaia Mika 20 May 2023, 8:22PM

The hard work of the late archbishop Alapati Mataeliga was remembered on Saturday as the 5th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM5) got underway in Samoa.

The official opening of the congress was held on Saturday morning at the St Therese of the Child Jesus, Tofamamao Pastoral, and Cultural Centre with officials from the Catholic Church's Samoa-Apia Archdiocese as well as representatives from archdioceses around the world in attendance. The WACOM5 from 20-26 May 2023 was officially opened by the Deputy Prime Minister, Tuala Ponifasio Tevaga on Saturday morning.

Tuala, in his keynote address, made special mention of the late archbishop's work which led to Samoa's success in being chosen as the host of the Catholic global conference.

"The late archbishop, Alapati Mataeliga was ordained as the head of the archdiocese of Samoa Apia in 2003 until his passing a few weeks ago," the Deputy Prime Minister said. 

"He, however, is fondly remembered today and sorely missed as he was leading the coordination of the 5th WACOM in Samoa. While we are deeply saddened by his passing, we are also rejoicing knowing that his dream for this conference to be held in Samoa is being fulfilled in this ocean of love, encompassing us all in God's divine mercy.

"We therefore applaud with sincerity, gratefulness, and respect, the persistence, commitment, and hard work of the late archbishop Mataeliga which has led to our small island nation being chosen as the first in Oceania to host WACOM. 

"To this end, I extend on behalf of the Honourable Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, and the Cabinet, warmest of Oceanic and Pacific alofaaga, ocean of love, enveloping not only the delegates but the whole world."

Highlighting that Samoa's hosting of WACOM5 coincides with the country's 12-month-long 60th Independence anniversary celebrations, Tuala said Samoa is grateful for playing host to visitors, friends, and families from around the world at such an important time in the country's history. 

The first WACOM was launched in Rome in 2008 with the last three hosts of WACOM being countries with larger economies and resources including Poland (2011), Columbia (2014), and the Philipines (2015), and now in Samoa. 

The Catholic Church was established in Samoa at Lealatele, Malaeloa, and Gafoaga Savai'i in 1845 and continues as one of the three main churches in Samoa to account for over 20 per cent of the country's population today. Next Saturday the village of Lealatele on the island of Savai'i, which accepted and introduced the Catholic faith in Samoa some 178 years ago, will mark the arrival of Catholicism in Samoa as part of the country's 60th anniversary celebration.

Father Spa Silver, who is on the church committee hosting the congress, said Samoa being able to host such a global conference is one for the history books, especially for Samoan members of the church.

"The message from the Bible which is the whole purpose of this conference is to repent, love God, and love your neighbour, and is the pinnacle of why the country is holding this conference," he added. "The conference has participants through archdioceses from Oceania, America, South America, North America, Europe, Australia, and members of the Divine Mercy."

Archbishops from the participating continents are also in Samoa for the conference which began with the ava ceremony and official meetings discussing significant matters pertaining to the church and its development. The global congress will close this coming Friday. 

By Talaia Mika 20 May 2023, 8:22PM
Samoa Observer

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