OCEANIA/FRENCH POLYNESIA - A relic of Saint Francis to support peacemakers: the Saint in the Catholic community of the Leeward Islands

Friday, 22 September 2023


Uturoa (Agenzia Fides) - More than eighty participants committed to Christian life in the Raromatai archipelago, the Leeward Islands, gathered on the central island, Raiatea, from Sunday, September 17 to Wednesday, September 21, for a prayer meeting, which in the archipelago is called putuputura'a, with the theme: "Blessed are the peacemakers." This was the fourth edition, always inspired by the Synod with the aim of reorganizing activities and active participation of young people.
"As we begin the new pastoral year, the wars in the world stimulate us to think about how to design solid plans to build peace here in Polynesia and beyond. The theme of this putuputura'a was chosen to underline the aspect of 'artisans', skilled workers, fine craftsmen and not links in a repetitive and limiting production chain", writes to Fides Father Sandro Lafranconi, priest of the Society of African Missions (SMA) missionary in the Archipelago. As the ninth point of the synodal decalogue says: let us learn to discern before deciding. War is born when peace is not planned," stressed the missionary, who has been in charge of the pastoral care of the Raromatai since August 2022. During this meeting, the participants were able to do penance with the possibility of also celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation, which Father Sandro described as "rare in our geographical situations". There was great excitement about the arrival on the island of a relic of Saint Francis that an elderly Poor Clare nun from a monastery near Naples made for the community of Raromatai based on the latest exhumation/investigation of the Saint's remains. "As the prayer 'Lord, make me an instrument of your peace' was sung verse by verse with a chanted refrain, the relic passed from hand to hand to each of the more than eighty participants. Silence, calm prayer and a lot of emotion", said Father Sandro. The "package" with the relic was opened in front of the bishop of Papeete, Jean Pierre Cottanceau, SS.CC. so that he would be the first to see and approve the content that would be proposed for the faith and devotion of the people.
The relic has been entrusted to the island that hosted the putuputura'a and will arrive on the island of Huahine in February 2024, where the next putuputura'a will be organized. "Thus, every six months, Saint Francis will travel from one island to another to guarantee and support the peacemakers and to sew such a difficult peace himself in these parishes corroded by resentment that prevents forgiveness". "Among the news of these last few months here in the Archipelago", concludes the missionary, "a dozen young people are dedicated to relaunching coordinated activities through the Raromatai. Father Éric Macé, Dominican and former television presenter of 'Dieu m'est témoin' on the French channel TF1, animates the mornings of exchange and reflection". (SL/AP) (Agenzia Fides, 22/9/2023)