King Tuheitia invites Pope Francis to New Zealand

Kīngi Tuheitia Potatau Te Wherowhero VII met with Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday.

At the meeting, the Kīngi formally invited the Pope to New Zealand to visit him at Turangawaewae Marae.

It was Kīngi Tuheitia’s first visit to Rome and his first such Papal engagement, usually reserved for heads of state.

They exchanged taonga.

The Latin words on the taonga the Pope presented means “Be Messengers of Peace” The dove and olive branch are international symbols of peace.

Kīngi Tuheitia was accompanied by his wife Makau Ariki Atawhai and his daughter Te Puhi Ariki Nga Wai Hono i te Po.

Nga Wai Hono i te Po was baptised in the Catholic Church at the request of her grandmother Dame Te Atairangikahu by Bishop Max Mariu.

Dame Te Atairangikahu chose to do this as a means of joining the two rivers, Waikato and Whanganui.

Nga Wai Hono i te Po was confirmed and made her first communion during a mass celebrated by Pa Hemi Hekiera and Monsignor David Bennett at Ngaruawahia as part of Kīngi Tuheitia’s coronation hui.

The Royal party was also supported by a delegation that included the Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Sir David Moxon and Archdeacon Ngira Simmonds.

A post on the Kiingitanga facebook page reported that The Anglican Church was pivotal in securing the audience with the Pope, “thus embodying the aphorism of the Second Māori King, King Tāwhiao who said ‘in the palm of my hand I hold three treasures – the Anglican, the Methodist and the Catholic churches.’”

After his meeting with the Pope, Kīngi Tuheitia was received by the Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The discussion focused on social and political issues facing Māori and indigenous communities, including employment, health and education, and the need for cultural and interfaith unity.

The king’s mother, the late Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikahu, visited the Vatican to meet Pope John Paul II in 1975.

The last papal visit to New Zealand took place in November 1986, when Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in Auckland Domain, where he wore a Māori feather cloak and addressed a huge crowd.

“The visit of King Tuheitia to the Pope is a very, very significant event because it is part of the vision that he set out at the Koroneihana last year, to commemorate and celebrate the 160th anniversary of the Kiingitanga”,  Wira Gardiner wrote on Facebook.

“One of the messages was to make the Kiingitanga an important instrument and an institution both domestically and internationally, reaching out to the Pope was one of those aspects of internationalising the Kiingitanga.”


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