Benedict XVI Receives Tongan Leader

VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2010 ( Benedict XVI received in audience today the prime minister of the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga, Feleti Vaka’uta Sevele.

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A communique published by the Vatican press office noted: «In the course of the cordial discussions attention focused on the process of institutional reform in Tonga, on various aspect of the archipelago’s social and economic life, and on the important contribution the Catholic Church makes in various fields of human promotion.

«Opinions were then exchanged on the international situation, with particular reference to the political, commercial and environmental problems which the Pacific Island States are facing in a spirit of close collaboration.»

The prime minister subsequently went on to meet with the Pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states.

Tonga is an archipelago comprised of 169 islands that stretches over a distance of about 500 miles. It has a population of 120,898.

The presence of the Catholic Church in Tonga goes back to 1837 when Bishop Jean-Baptiste-François Pompallier led seven French Marist priests to the islands, thus becoming the first Catholics ever to enter Tonga.

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