Samoa
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Archbishop Alapati Lui Mataeliga passes away in New Zealand

Staff Reporters

APIA, SAMOA – 25 APRIL 2023: Condolences and messages of encouragement have been flowing in for the members of the Catholic faith and clergy of the Diocese of Samoa and Tokelau after the announcement of the passing of Archbishop Alapati Lui Mataeliga in Auckland, New Zealand at 3.00 this morning.

Alapati Lui Mataeliga (4 January 1953 – 25 April 2023) was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Samoa-Apia and was ordained for the presbyterate of the Diocese of Samoa and Tokelau on July 5, 1977. He was born in Sataua on the island of Savai’i and his parents were Lauiliu Utu Vaoliko Mata’eliga (mother) and Vaoliko Sui Panitaleo Mata’eliga (father).

Father Mataeliga was appointed by the Holy See as the second Archbishop of Samoa-Apia on November 16, 2002 upon the retirement of Cardinal Pio Taofinu’u.

A well respected and influential church leader, Mataeliga had taken on controversial issues of national interest that pose to threaten the integrity of the under privileged in society.

Mateiliga vagst protest
Mateiliga vagst protest

Alapati Lui Mateiliga at the front of a VAGST protest march in 1994. Photo/talamua.com

When the government introduced the controversial VAGST tax regime in 1994, he led the protesters in an effort to avoid any major confrontations as the country emerged polarized on the issue.

One such protest march carried a huge box with signatures of those opposed to the tax that were collected in a petition that was later presented to the Head of State at his residence at Faatoia. A Commission of Inquiry appointed by the Government later found the signatures invalid as well as the petition.

During the constitutional crisis that followed the April 2021 general elections that saw a change of government, Archbishop Alapati Lui Mataeiliga publicly denounced the caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi during a sermon on 31 May, for ignoring and challenging the courts and refusing to yield and transfer political power.

Archbishop ifoga
Archbishop ifoga

The Archbishop leading some of the clergy kneeling in a Ifoga to bring about a peaceful solution to the constitutional crisis after a standoff between the police and Opposition MPs at the parliament grounds on 15 September 2021.

In a later standoff with police on parliament grounds when opposition MPs were refused entry inside parliament, Alapati performed an Ifoga in front of the Government Building to bring about a peaceful solution to the five months long crisis.

While Alapati’s health suffered in recent months, he had been very much involved in the preparations to host about 2,000 members of the faith coming to Samoa for the 5th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy 21-16 May. The Congress theme is “Divine Mercy: The Ocean of Love That Envelopes the Whole World.”

Arrangements for his funeral have yet to be announced.