Pope appoints Tonga’s first Catholic cardinal

Bishop Sōane Patita Mafi of the diocese of Tonga and Niuē has been appointed a cardinal by Pope Francis.

This is the first time the title has been bestowed on a priest from the kingdom.

At 53, Bishop Mafi is the youngest of the Catholic Church’s 15 new cardinals. Among the other appointments is 95-year-old Archbishop Pimiento Rodriguez, Archbishop Emeritus of Manizales, Colombia.

The new cardinals have been chosen from 13 countries.

A Vatican statement said the Pontiff would summon a formal meeting of the College of Cardinals, known as a Consistory, on February 14, at which they would reflect on the proposals for the reform of the Roman Curia.

The Vatican statement quoted Pope Francis as saying the new Cardinals “manifest the indissoluble links between the Church of Rome and the particular Churches present in the world.”

On February 15 the newly created Cardinal Mafi will take part in a concelebrated mass presided over by the Pope.

Bishop Mafi was the third Tongan to be appointed a Catholic Bishop.

The first Tongan bishop was Pātelesio Fīnau, who served from 1972 – 1993. He was succeeded by Sōane Lilo Foliaki, who served from 1994 – 2008.

The Catholic Church was established in the kingdom in 1842.

Tribute

The news of Bishop Mafi’s elevation has been welcomed by Catholics in the kingdom who see the appointment as making Tonga’s mark in the history of the world’s largest Christian denomination.

Many Tongans have used Facebook to pay tribute to Bishop Mafi.

On the Kainga Fo’ou ‘o ‘Aotearoa forum, a page used by Tongan Catholics in Auckland, a tribute says in Tongan: “Wake up! Let’s shout for joy and be jubilant for the news. Let’s be happy all Tongan Catholic for the honour given to Bishop Soane Patita Mafi. He is cardinal of the church. He is the first Tongan to be appointed to the post.”

Bishop Mafi was born on December 19, 1961 in Nuku’alofa and was ordained as a priest in June 1991.

On October 4, 2007 he was ordained Bishop with the title of Co-adjutor (assistant) Bishop of Tonga and Niue.

On Apr, 18, 2008 he succeeded to the title of the Bishop of Tonga and Niue.

Cardinals

Cardinals hold the highest ecclesiastical positions in the Catholic Church and elect one of their number as Pope.

Known as the Princes of the Church, the Cardinals can wield immense power.

Most are in charge of a diocese or archdiocese, but they may also run departments in the Vatican administration.

In his battle to reform the church, Pope Francis has been highly critical of officials involved in the running of the Vatican, accusing them of vanity, corruption and self interest.

The main points

  • Bishop Sōane Patita Mafi of the diocese of Tonga and Niuē has been appointed a cardinal by Pope Francis.
  • This is the first time the title has been bestowed on a priest from the kingdom.
  • At 53, Bishop Mafi is the youngest of the Catholic Church’s 15 new cardinals. The new cardinals have been chosen from 13 countries.
  • On February 15 the newly created Cardinal Mafi will take part in a concelebrated mass presided over by the Pope.

For more information

http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html

‘Pope announces names of new Cardinals’ (Official Vatican News)

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