What’s in name: Sōane Patita Paini Mafi

In his first public speech in Tonga, Cardinal Mafi told thousands of listeners that he believed he had become the Catholic church’s youngest cardinal because he was named after John the Baptist.

Mafi was responding to a question asked by many Tongans when news about his elevation broke in the kingdom: How did the tiny Pacific Tongan diocese in the Pacific come to be recognised like this by the Vatican?

The cardinal said while he was trying to come to terms with the news of his elevation he remembered how his mother ‘Onevao wrote to him while he was in the seminary in Fiji. He said she always addressed him by his christened name, with the salutation, “Siʻi Sōane Patita.”

Siʻi, a Tongan definitive article, carries a sense of emotion in Tongan when added to the name.

Sōane Patita is the Catholic name for John the Baptist in Tongan.

Cardinal Mafi said John the Baptist was a very humble prophet who told Jesus he was unworthy to tie the straps of his sandals.

He was speaking at the ceremony of hāʻunga, a Tongan presentation of pigs and kava as well and mats and ngatu to show appreciation for what has been achieved.

At the Hāʻunga Kula, the Cardinal’s Herald (he speaks on behalf of the Cardinal), recalled how he felt nervous when they arrived in the Vatican.

He said the novelty of the atmosphere hugely impressed him and made him ask how on earth this had happened.

Kula said the other cardinals who were elevated with Mafi were from well-known countries of the world.

He said his anxiety was propelled by the fact the MC of the day at the Vatican asked in front of the audience where Tonga was.

Then, using poetical languages, he said he came to realise that this was a religious event which was not based on worldly ideas and physicality but on Christian morals and ethics where everyone was the same in the eyes of God.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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