In a letter of sympathy to His Excellency Archbishop Alapati Mata’eliga of the Archdiocese of Samoa, Faleomavaega said: “His Eminence, in his lifetime, was an exemplary pillar of faith to all Catholics in the two Samoas and the Pacific region; and was also a symbol of determination and hope for non-Catholics alike, through his humbleness and simplicity.”
“On a personal level, I have always known Cardinal Pio as a father, and have always admired him not only as the head of the Catholic Church in Samoa, but as one of the greatest Samoan Christian leaders who loved his people from his heart,” the Congressman said.
“Cardinal Pio’s belief that Samoa’s cultural and traditional inheritance are divine gifts from God reassured our pride as Samoans. This immense belief also strengthened our ties with our roots. These were things His Eminence had always valued and treasured next to his unwavering faith in God,” Faleomavaega wrote.
In a separate statement to the media, the Congressman stated: “I remember the time when I was Lieutenant Governor in the ‘80’s, and I met Cardinal Pio in the celebration of the Marist Brothers’ 100th anniversary in Apia. He put his arm around me from behind, and I felt his mana when he said: ‘Ia tautuana ma ‘oe le atunu’u ( be mindful and caring for our people). It was a statement that will always affect me for the rest of my political life.”
“Cardinal Pio is one of the few who set the precedent and have put Samoans into the history books as being one of the firsts. From a simple priest in the mid ‘50’s to being a bishop in the late ‘60’s, Taofinu’u’s influence and power of persuasion enabled the two Samoas to the first and only visit from a Pope, Pope Paul VI in 1970. The dynamics of His Eminence had him elected into the College of Cardinals as the first and only Pacific Islander to become a Cardinal in 1973,” Faleomavaega recounted.
“There are only ten Cardinals in the United States, and they head various dioceses across the nation for some 50 million Catholics. It has always been my pride in Congress that we have a Cardinal who is Samoan, and he heads a little more that 40,000 Catholics. To me, it is a matter of pride for all Samoan Roman Catholics and non-Catholics alike,” Faleomavaega stated.
“For many, Cardinal Pio’s decision to establish the home of the aged at Mapuifagalele, Apia in the ‘70’s, and the nursing home in Fatuoaiga, Tafuna in the ‘80’s, were controversial, claiming that they would lead to the breakdown of family life in the fa’asamoa. Pio believed that it was fa’asamoa to take good care of and provide the best for our elderly, and the two homes have provided nothing but that all these years,” the Congressman pointed out.
“He was also a man who belied in returning nothing but the best of what he had to his God through worship. He revolutionized the celebration of the Holy Mass to highlight the epitome of the Samoan culture through the traditional presentation of sua. He always believed that if this was the best of the Samoan culture, then it should be incorporated into the worshiping ceremony, for God deserves nothing but the best from us as a people,” Faleomavaega explained.
“His Eminence always believed in Everlasting Life. His favorite proverb is: E lutia i puava ae mapu i Fagalele (to be battered by the rough waves at the channel and then find safety in the calm waters of the bay at Fagalele). After all the great things he had done, and then the struggle with his health for many years later, I find it appropriate that his spirit has now found peace in the tranquility of the spiritual Fagalele he so much longed for in this world,” the Congressman said.
In his letter to Archbishop Alapati Mata’eliga, Faleomavaega concluded: “Cardinal Pio’s passing away will always leave a great void in all of us whom he touched; and I pray that God, through His Everlasting Peace, grants His healing grace sooner on Your Excellency, the grieving Archdiocese of Samoa, families and friends, and the people of Samoa. Please be assured of my continued respect and esteem.”