by NZ Catholic staff
Tongan Bishop Soane Patita Mafi became the first Cardinal of his country on Saturday and at 53 years of age, the youngest cardinal in the new consistory.
The bishop from the tiny South Pacific nation is among the 20 new Church leaders that Pope Francis made members of the College of Cardinals.
In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Philippa Hitchen, Cardinal Mafi said the biggest concern
for him is still the people’s faith.
Cardinal Mafi said his episcopal motto, “Deepen the Faith”, is still relevant.”We need to deepen the faith of the people. If it’s shallow they can waver easily,” he said.
“Now, besides the mainline churches, there are these little sects coming. Remember, we are just a small number of people, we are limited. And yet, there are these small sects coming and they can influence people who already belong to the mainline churches,” Cardinal Mafi explained. “And I think this is a concern. People can become confused [by] this idea of relativism creeping in.”
He said another challenge for Tongan church leaders like himself is keeping the family together.
“We also have that sense of family still there. For how long? That’s the big challenge for church leaders like myself: how to keep the balance, how to encourage and empower parents [and] elders and how to read the signs, perhaps [find] a new way of approaching the children. Maybe the old method is no longer applicable. It’s a time to reawaken, not just relax, to seize this opportunity,” he said.
He also explained how the King and Queen of Tonga came to his elevation. “That was a very surprising co-incidence. I remember meeting the King and Queen in January. As we lined up at the palace, we shook hands with the King and the Queen. When I reached the Queen, she whispered, ‘Oh, bishop, we are going to Rome in Feburary’. Remember, this was a week before the announcement was made. I said good luck and all the best not knowing that we are going to meet,” he said.
He said God’s ways are truly mysterious.