Samoans di­vided in church rift

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

A rift in Welling­ton’s Catholic Church is said to have driven many Samoan Chris­tians away from the church for the past six months.

Leau­pepe An­thony Leau­pepe, a Samoan parish­ioner at St Anne’s Church in New­town, said a paid lay co-or­di­na­tor for the church’s Samoan chap­laincy had been ap­pointed, re­plac­ing a priest.

The new co-or­di­na­tor had in­ter­fered with the way Samoan Catholics prac­tised their faith and their cul­ture within the church, he said.

The Samoan chap­laincy had ex­isted for 50 years, but ‘‘ none of us are go­ing to church now’’.

Arch­bishop John Dew said all cat­e­chists and lead­ers of the 13 Samoan com­mu­ni­ties were in­formed of the ap­point­ment in May.

‘‘The per­son was not ap­pointed in place of a priest. Sev­eral priests who speak Samoan have been cel­e­brat­ing the Samoan masses for the last few months,’’ Arch­bishop Dew said.

Mr Leau­pepe said the Samoan sec­tion of the church had been split.

Many Samoan Chris­tians were no longer at­tend­ing reg­u­lar Sun­day Mass.

‘‘At New­town we nor­mally have an 11 o’clock mass, but that has been can­celled un­til we obey him.

‘‘At the moment we are just meet­ing in our com­mu­nity group to dis­cuss it and find a way for­ward.’’

The rift had af­fected churches as far afield as Levin, Mr Leau­pepe said.

Of the 12 Samoan Catholic churches in the re­gion, only the Stokes Val­ley and Taita con­gre­ga­tions had agreed with the arch­bishop’s changes. Thou­sands in the re­gion had been af­fected, Mr Leau­pepe said.

A spokes­woman for Our Lady of Fatima church in Tawa con­firmed she had heard some­thing was go­ing on, but re­ferred ques­tions to Arch­bishop Dew.

Samoans ap­peared to still be at­tend­ing the church, she said.

A spokes­woman for St An­drew’s in New­lands did not know any­thing about a rift and said Samoans were still at­tend­ing church.

Mr Leau­pepe said the stand-off had been go­ing on for six months.

‘‘I be­lieve that it is our right to go about our lives in our own way and prac­tise our faith in our own way. ‘‘At the moment, the process is stalled. ‘‘It has been six months so far, mov­ing to Christ­mas and it’s not mov­ing for­ward.’’

Arch­bishop Dew said he had held meet­ings with the Samoan com­mu­nity and with sev­eral com­mu­nity lead­ers in the past few weeks.

He had also ar­ranged for two priests to be sent to the Arch­dio­cese of Welling­ton, but the process was de­pen­dent on them ob­tain­ing visas.

‘‘In ad­di­tion, I held a ma­jor meet­ing 10 days ago and ex­plained the above to the Samoan com­mu­nity.

‘‘I am also cur­rently meet­ing with the cat­e­chist cou­ples one-by-one to dis­cuss these mat­ters with them.

Cat­e­chist cou­ples are those ap­pointed by the Arch­bishop to work with the priest or lay leader in charge of a parish in or­der to pro­vide pas­toral, spir­i­tual and sacra­men­tal care for the Samoan com­mu­ni­ties, Arch­bishop Dew said.

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