28 Jan 2006

Samoa readying for funeral of first and only Pacific Islander Catholic Cardinal

8:24 am on 28 January 2006

Samoa is preparing to hold the funeral of the first and only Pacific Islander to become a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church.

The funeral services for His Eminence Cardinal Pio Taofinuu will be held today and tomorrow in Apia.

This week, Catholics and non Catholics have flocked to churches and centres where the Cardinal's body has lain in state.

Villages along the procession route have been decorated with fine mats, flowers and enlarged photos of the Cardinal.

Bishops and Catholics from dioceses in the Pacific have arrived in Apia.

His final resting place has been prepared on the left wing of the cathedral of the Immaculate conception in Mulivai.

It's his wish to be buried in the old customs of Samoa, wrapped in a siapo.

The cardinal's body will lie at the Mulivai Cathedral from 11am local time this morning for people to pay their respects and for prayer services.

At 5pm Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Guam, the President of the Conference of Bishops of the Pacific, will preside at a Mass.

Monsignor Etuale Lealofi, the first priest to be ordained by then Bishop Pio Taofinuu after he was consecrated bishop will deliver the sermon.

The Cardinal will lie overnight at Mulivai.

His Requiem Mass will be held at 9am tomorrow, led by Archbishop Alapati Mataeliga, with all attending bishops and priests.

The Vatican is represented by the Secretary of the Apostolic Nuncio, the New Zealand Conference of Bishops is sending Bishop Robert Leamy and Bishop Lolesio Uea of Wallis and Futuna is also attending.

American Samoa has sent Governor Togiola Tulafono, the Senate President and House Speaker to attend.

The Cardinal died earlier this month at the age of 82.