Samoa Head of State Asks for Divine Forgiveness

Catholic event to “dedicate Samoa” in wake of Scientology visit

News from Samoa, via Radio New Zealand International:

On Friday, Samoa’s head of state is due to ask for divine forgiveness of his country’s sins for the first time, in a ceremony organised by the Catholic church.

The ceremony – based on a traditional ifoga formal apology – will take place outside the Parliament Building.

The aptly-named Father Penitito Mauga explains the context:

We have a lot of ups and downs, and also the influx of the new fashions and the new philosophies that are coming into Samoa. Also we have Scientology here, but who knows, other groups like that who don’t even believe in God will come also. So it’s about time for us to dedicate Samoa and also the archdiocese.

Scientologists arrived on the island several months ago to organise “disaster training” and to undertake a “goodwill tour“; this led to “hundreds” of Samoan Pentecostals marching in protest:

The protesters have called on the government to reconsider its stance to allow the Scientology members into the country as they would try to persuade many Christian believers to join the scientologists.

The Church had managed to gain some government approval and an endorsement from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Maliegaoi, which caused particular upset. The Catholic ceremony is perhaps his way of back-tracking.

Leading the ceremony will be Catholic Archbishop Alapati Lui Mataeliga, who has been particularly keen on public events since he was appointed in 2002; in 2004 it was reported that his “inspiration has led to the creation of a 120 member cultural Christian musical show drawn from all denominations”. Rather unexpectly, this was organized through Initiatives of Change, which was formerly known as the controversial Moral Re-Armament.

In 2003 the Archbishop was among marchers protesting against the invasion of Iraq. Blogger American Idle added the interesting detail that

…the Samoan police swarmed through the throngs of students who were preparing to march and ripped up any sign that contained the word “war”. It was hardly a glowing example of freedom of speech in a country that apparently thinks it can’t afford to offend the USA.

However, Mataeliga is not himself completely on-board with the idea of freedom of speech, and last year he led efforts which saw the banning of The Da Vinci Code. He

…said the film would affect the belief of young people whose faith was not strong.

More predictably, last September saw him speaking out against condoms.

(Hat tip: Cult News Network)

Name variation: Archbishop Alapati Mataeliga