AUCKLAND, New Zealand (CNS) — The youngest cardinal-designate named by Pope Francis is the son and grandson of catechists — and will be Tonga’s first cardinal.
Cardinal-designate Soane Mafi, 53, was among 20 men Pope Francis announced would be made cardinals at a consistory in Rome Feb. 14.
When Cardinal-designate Mafi became bishop of Tonga in April 2008, he became the first diocesan priest to be bishop in the history of the nation, an archipelago with a land mass about four times the size of Washington, D.C.
Soane Patita Paini Mafi was born in Nuku’alofa, capital of Tonga, Dec. 19, 1961. He grew up in Tonga and joined a youth group at his parish in the settlement of Kolofo’ou, near the capital, on the main island, Tongatapu.
He studied at the Pacific Regional Seminary in Suva, Fiji.
After his priestly ordination, he spent four years at Ha’apai parish on an outer island. In 1995, he became vicar general of Tongatapu.
In an interview with Catholic San Francisco in 2008, then-Bishop Mafi said his bishop sent him for three years of study at then-Loyola College in Baltimore. After he graduated in 2000, he returned to Fiji to join a formation team training local priests.
After six years at the seminary, he received the call that the church would like him to be a bishop — an adjustment that he found difficult. He told Catholic San Francisco that at the time, being the bishop, the shepherd, was exciting and something that made him uneasy, “because I want to be myself. It’s kind of a mixed feeling, excited but at the same time overwhelming. Now I belong to everybody.”
He has served a nation in transition, a monarchy in which people are pushing for greater democratic rights.
Most Tongans are Methodist, but about 17,000 are Catholic. In 2012, there were said to be about 57,000 Tongans and Tongan-Americans in the United States, many in and around San Mateo and Oakland, California.
Help us keep you informed -- CatholicPhilly.com can't do it with youDuring CatholicPhilly.com's fall donation campaign, you have a way to help us deliver the kind of news you need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live. Every household's costs keep rising, and we're no different. We make sure your dollars in any amount go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month. Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can -- a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Or by credit card here: