Condolences came from the top of the Catholic Church when the Māori queen, Dame Te Atairangik’≈°√É‚Äû√É¬∂hu, died last month.
The papal secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, issued a statement conveying the pope’s sadness at her death.
‘His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has learned with sadness of the death of Te Arikinui, the Māori Queen, Dame Te Atairangik’≈°√É‚Äû√É¬∂hu, and he sends heartfelt condolences to the people of Aotearoa.
Assuring her family and all the bereaved of his prayers at this time of national mourning, the Holy Father commends the late Dame Te Atairangik’≈°√É‚Äû√É¬∂hu to the loving mercy of Almighty God and invokes upon the country the divine gifts of consolation and peace.’The Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, Monsignor David Bennett, along with other church officials paid their respects to Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangik’≈°√É‚Äû√É¬∂hu on 21 August at T√É‚Ç¨√É¬∂rangawaewae Marae. The president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Denis Browne, of Hamilton, joined other mourners on the marae later after arriving back from Australia.
In his absence, Monsignor Bennett, on behalf of the New Zealand Catholic bishops and particularly of Catholic Māori and the Hamilton Diocese which includes Ngaruawahia, expressed his prayerful condolences to Dame Te Ata’s family, to Tainui and to all Māoridom.
‘Many have attested to her qualities of leadership,’ he said. ‘Her sincerity, graciousness, gentleness and humility shone through in all her dealings. She was a truly great leader.’
Monsignor Bennett spoke of the friendship and warm personal regard between Te Arikinui and the first Catholic Māori bishop, Bishop Takuira Max Mariu, who died last December. He was at every koroneihana and had many other involvements with her and was also the auxiliary bishop in the rohe tribal district of her Tainui Maniapoto iwi.
‘This respect was especially evident,’ he said, ‘just after Bishop Mariu’s death when at Te Arikinui’s invitation he stayed a night at T√É‚Ç¨√É¬∂rangawaewae on his journey home to Little Waihi.
‘On his visit to New Zealand, Pope John Paul II had a cordial meeting with Dame Te Ata.
‘In 1981 Bishop Edward Gaines was installed as the first Catholic Bishop of Hamilton and Dame Te Ata presented him with a carved crozier. And when Bishop Denis Browne was installed as the second Bishop of Hamilton, Dame Te Ata brought it forward again to give to him. This crozier is always used by the bishop in our cathedral church.’
Reflecting further on the relationship between Te Arikinui and the diocese, Monsignor Bennett observed that when the church established the Hui Te Rangiora Marae in Clarence Street, it was Dame Te Ata who named it.
‘The fact that people of diverse cultures and backgrounds are coming in great numbers to T√É‚Ç¨√É¬∂rangawaewae to pay her tribute, attests to the way in which Dame Te Ata brought peoples and cultures closer together. And she had close associations with Pacific peoples, with royalty and officials from many Pacific nations coming to her marae for special celebrations,’ he said.
‘Haere e Te Arikinui, haere e te Rangatira, haere ki te kainga tuturu, haere, haere, haere.’