WelCom June 2019:
Pope Francis and Māori King, His Majesty Kiingi Tuheita Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, met at a private audience at the Vatican on 26 May 2019.
Kiingi Tuheita Pōtatau Te Wherowhero was accompanied by his wife Makau Ariki Atawhai and his daughter Te Puhi Ariki Ngā Hono i te Po. It was his first visit to Rome and his first such papal engagement, usually reserved for heads of state.
The royal party for the papal audience was also accompanied by a delegation that included the Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Sir David Moxon, New Zealand Anglican Bishop, and Archdeacon Ngira Simmonds, Missioner of Waikato and Vicar of Hemi Tapu.
After his meeting with Pope Francis, King Tuheitia was also 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.
While at the Vatican King Tuheitia also invited Pope Francis to his royal courts at Turangawaewae Marae in the Waikato town of Ngāruawāhia.
The last papal visit to Aotearoa New Zealand was in November 1986. During his visit St Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in Auckland Domain, where he wore a Māori korowai and addressed a large crowd.
The royal party for the papal audience was also supported by a delegation that included the Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Sir David Moxon, New Zealand Anglican Bishop, and Archdeacon Ngira Simmonds.
Archbishop David Moxon said, the visit happened as planned and was a huge success, exceeding all expectations. ‘The papal household were wonderful and the Pope had private one-to-one time with the King which was deeply appreciated. King Tuheitia gained so much pastoral support and encouragement from the reasonably long amount of time. It was heart to heart.’
Three of us had accompanied the agreed group of four to support as asked by the King’s office, which was well received. There were deeply moving greetings, gift exchanges and prayers, and then individual gifts for each.
‘Cardinal Parolin was wonderful; being very well briefed and very interested in the conversation. The conversation went for a good length of time and was most informative and uplifting with the official group of four. We all shook his hand at the end after the meeting was over.
Archbishop Moxon said, ‘The Royal household regard this day as a huge gift of respect and understanding of the aspirations of the king movement and Māori development within Aotearoa New Zealand as a whole. They cannot speak highly enough of Cardinal John Dew’s willingness to represent this idea to Rome personally. Cardinal John, the Holy Father and Cardinal Parolin have achieved an historic gain for our country and churches I believe, in the area of race relations and spirituality.’
The King was also hosted by the Australian ambassador to the Holy See, Melissa Hitchman at the formal luncheon. Also in attendance was were several foreign diplomats, as well as the New Zealand ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Fyfe and the New Zealand ambassador to Italy, Anthony Simpson.