Kiingi Tuheitia Potatau Te Wherowhero had a private meeting with Pope Francis over the weekend at the Vatican.
The Māori King has issued an invite in person for Pope Francis to visit Tūrangawaewae Marae in Ngāruawāhia.
King Tuheitia Potatau Te Wherowhero on his first trip to Rome was granted a private audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican at the weekend.
His wife Makau Ariki Atawhai, and his daughter Te Puhi Ariki Nga Wai Hono i te Po, were also in attendance.
A meeting with the pope is usually reserved for the head of state, however, the King’s mother the late Te Arikinui Dame Te Aatairangikaahu first began the interaction by meeting with Pope Paul, at the Vatican, in 1975.
During the meeting, the King formally invited the Pope to visit his marae as others such as the Queen, Prince Charles and Nelson Mandela had done.
The King also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State.
He spoke to both about his vision for unity amongst te iwi Māori, different cultural groups and different faiths.
They talked about current issues facing all New Zealanders, particularly Māori and indigenous communities when it comes to employment, youth issues, housing, health, and education.
The Anglican Church was pivotal in securing the audience with the Pope and the royal party for the papal audience was supported by a delegation that included the Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Sir David Moxon and Archdeacon Ngira Simmonds.
The King is of Pai Mārire faith, while his daughter was baptised Catholic by the people of Whanganui.
The King and his delegation then went on to Monte Cassino, where he paid his respects at the Cemetery of Cassino to the 457 New Zealand soldiers that died there, including the 60 from the 28th Māori Battalion.
“The King came today not only pay his respects to the New Zealand soldiers but the Māori soldiers who predominantly came from A and B companies who led the attack on the rail station which was a strategic asset in the fight for Cassino,” Sir Wira Gardiner, Director of the King’s Office, said.
On his trip to Italy, the King also visited the sixth-century Benedictine monastery founded on the ancient hilltop site of Monte Cassino, the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and the Sistine Chapel.
He will travel to Florence before returning to New Zealand.