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“Archbishop Alapati Mataeliga gave Hope, Light & Guidance for Samoa” says PM

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 09 APRIL 2023: The late Archbishop Alapati Lui Mataeliga was not just a preacher, but was a leader of principles and a man of God who was determined to ensure there was peace, love and unity among the people of Samoa.

Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa who gave the eulogy on behalf of the Government at Archbishop Mataeliga’s funeral service last Saturday, said the Archbishop loved his country and stood for what is right for the people of Samoa.

“He radiated hope where there was despair, light where there was darkness, guidance when we appeared to falter in finding our way,” said Fiame.

“His commitment and principled adherence to render service and not to be served resonated well in how he lived his life on this earth among the parishioners from all walks of life and at the various echelons of the government, the business community and Samoan society, in particular our youth,“ she said.

Being the youngest priest to be ordained to such a position in the Catholic Church, he began his service as Archbishop of Samoa and Tokelau in 2002.

She said the Archbishop’s support for Government programmes and initiatives such as the National Prayers and Fasting Week, state ceremonies, education and health, national emergency response, and assistance to vulnerable families and communities are highly commended.

alapati fiame presents
alapati fiame presents

Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa presents the national flag to the Vicar General and Administrator of the Catholic Church of Samoa, Father Pio Galumalemana following her eulogy.

She also referred to Archbishop Mataeliga’s intervention during the country’s political upheaval, a period of uncertainty and a time when political differences serrated the bonds of our close-knit families, kinships, friendships, and unity.

“It was a litmus test of the steadfastness of our faith. In the midst of these trials and tribulations, Mataeliga’s leadership and stalwart counsel, inflamed the hope that God was in control, and would not leave nor forsake Samoa. He was forthcoming and straight talking in his reminders to the leaders and the citizenry of the essence of our quest for independence, solidarity, and the struggles our forefathers endured to earn our sovereignty,” said Fiame.

”We recognize his contribution to the Catholic Faith in Samoa, and we acknowledge his boldness and courage to intercede for Samoa and our people.”

The former Head of State Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi also remembered Archbishop Mataeliga for his boldness and in support of the people.

He recalled the Tumua & Pule peaceful protest against the VAGST and when the march reached an area around the town clock in Apia, the Government officials through a loudspeaker called out to the police to stop and disperse the march.

Mateiliga vagst protest
Mateiliga vagst protest

Alapati Lui Mataeliga at the front of a VAGST protest march in 1994. Photo/Talamua Media.

“Archbishop Mataeliga then took the Bible which was carried by someone else, held it high and continued to walk towards the Government building and no one dared stepped in to stop him as the march continued on,” said Tui Atua.

Other eulogies were presented by the National Council of Churches Chairman Reverend Aisoli Iuli, former Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Tevaga Faatili Manuseuga Mataeliga on behalf of the family and the Vicar General, Father Pio Galumalemana on behalf of the church.

Archbishop Mataeliga died in Auckland on 25 April 2023.

There were three special masses last week before his final mass on Saturday. On Friday 6th April, his body was brought from Sefo’s Funeral parlour and laid inside the Mary Immaculate Conception Church Mulivai as various parishes paid tribute to him.

Presiding over his final mass were His Eminence Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga/Niue as Principal Celebrant, His Excellency Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa of the Apostolic Nuncio to CEPAC New Zealand, HIs Excellency Bishop Kolio Etuale Tumanuvao Diocese of American Samoa, Reverend Father Pio Galumalemana & Reverend Father Line Folaumoeloe.

He was laid to rest at Malololelei where he served.

alapti flag cover
alapti flag cover

Covering the coffin with the national flag and the police guard carried his coffin to his final resting place.

Archbishop Mataeliga was 70 years old when he passed. His parents were Vaoliko Sui Panitaleo Mataeliga and Lauiliu Florina Mataeliga.

He had 4 brothers and 4 sisters.

He started his education at Sataua and Fagasa Primary School in Savaii from 1958 to 1965, before entering Chanel College in 1966. He was the school Deputy Head Boy in 1970.

Discernment  into the Priesthood
1971– Entered Moamoa Theological College
1972-1976 – Entered St. Peter Channel Pacific Regional Seminary (Fiji) and became the first student President.
1977– Deaconate Ordination
July 1977– Ordination into the priesthood by the late Eminence Cardinal Pio Taofinuu. He was the youngest student ordained at the age of 24.
1977-1979 – Assistant priest, Co-Cathedral Parish of St. Joseph the Worker in American Samoa.
September 1979 – June 1983 -Studied Sacred Scriptures at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome where he graduated with Licentiate in Sacred Scripture.
1984-1986 – Taught scripture & Dean of Studies at PRS Fiji.
1987-1992-  Appointed parish priest for three parishes in American Samoa.
1992-1995 – Appointed Coordinator of Pastoral Renewal Program in the Archdiocese of Samoa-Apia in preparation for the church’s 150 anniversary.
1995-1997-  Programme coordinator for the Missionary Brothers of St. Joseph the Worker.
1998-2002 -Appointed Director of Tofamamao Pastoral & Cultural centre, Spiritual Director of the Jubilee Youth of Samoa.
16 November 2022- Named by the Holy See to succeed His Eminence Cardinal Pio Taofinuu.
3rd January 2003 – Consecrecrated to the Episcopate & Installed as Ordinary & Archbishop of Samoa.
2009-2023 – Appointed Continental Coordinator of Divine Mercy Apostolate Oceania.
2nd December 2017-  Named Honourable Knight Commander of Grace by the Sovereign Order of St.John of Jerusalem (Knights of Malta)
2020-2023 – President of the WACOMS Organizing Committee for the first World Congress on Mercy under the Dicastery for Evangelization -Vatican Rome.

Alapati women by the coffin
Alapati women by the coffin

Women and young parishioners by the late Archbishops coffin during the celebration of his life and service to the church.