Monday, May 07, 2007

How Tui Cakau Ratu Golea Became Catholic


The story behind the Holy Cross How the crucifix came under dramatic circumstances to Wairiki

Margaret Snider
The Holy Cross church... in Wairiki since late 1800s.
Holy Cross Church sits on the hillside among the classrooms and dormitory of its schools, above the rugby field, looking out over the Somosomo Strait at Wairiki on Taveuni Island.

There since the late 1800s, the church presents a peaceful scene now. But its presence is related to an exciting story: the story of the Holy Cross. For there really is a Holy Cross.

The crucifix came to Wairiki under dramatic circumstances during the war with the Tongans around 1862. Father John Crispin, who is at Wairiki now and has served the Catholic Church in Fiji for 26 years, says of the background of the war: "The way they would do it when there was a local fight they (the Tongans) would ally themselves with the weaker side and would help them to win, so they would overcome the more powerful ones and the weaker ones would be beholden to them."

Such was the case in the mid-1800s. Ratu Koila had assassinated Ratu Golea's father and now had allied with the Tongans to defeat Ratu Golea, who was a chief on Taveuni. Ratu Koila's general was Wainiqolo.

"Send messengers to all the tribes," ordered Ratu Golea. "All warriors are to go as quickly as possible to Wairiki. We will fight with Wainiqolo and we shall see if Cakaudrove is afraid of the Tongans."

The Cross
"Sir," he was told, "Wainiqolo has gone to Somosomo and removed your brother Ratu Kalou (Chief of Cakaudrove) and taken him to Lau. He has also taken your son."

Ratu Golea's son was just one year old.

"Very well," said Ratu Golea to his men. "Let's get going."

As they passed in front of Nawi, Ratu Golea saw a Catholic priest on shore. "Jump in the water," Ratu Golea told one of his men, "and go tell the priest that I don't have time to stop here, but I need to talk with him. Ask him to come and see me this evening at Korodogo."

Ratu Golea had a long meeting with the priest, Father Favre, and told him about the assault by the Tongans.

Father Favre assured him that if he would accept this cross, he would not need to fear; he would triumph over his enemies. Ratu Golea and several other important chiefs were encouraged and accepted the cross.

"After the battle is over," Ratu Golea told Father Favre, "come and visit me in Wairiki. If I am victorious over the Tongans, I shall be Catholic and all of Cakaudrove with me."

After arriving in Wairiki, Ratu Golea gave a charge to Tui Tunuloa. "You know that my son Ratu Lala is in Wainikeli," he said, "where he is being held by force. Take your warriors, go to Wainikeli and see that before sunset today my son is in my arms."

"He will be there, sir," said the old warrior. That evening before sunset, the child was in the arms of his father.

Ratu Golea had a younger brother, Daunivavana, who was so named because he was a marksman: he never missed his target and he always hit the smallest bird on the highest branch of a tree with his first shot. Ratu Golea assigned Daunivavana to be the general of his army.

Daunivavana had received information that the Tongans would attack from the interior while Ratu Koila and his followers would come by the shore. Therefore, Daunivavana and his army took on what they thought were the Tongans coming by land and defeated them, after which they realised it was the Fijian enemy. Then he knew that the Tongans must be coming by sea. He rushed with his army to Wairiki and when he was almost there saw four Fijian chiefs bearing his brother, Ratu Golea.

"Are you fatally wounded?" Daunivavana asked.

"No," said Ratu Golea. "But I have perhaps a broken arm."

The men of Cakaudrove attacked the Tongans and when the deed was done only one in fifty Tongans had survived and Daunivavana himself had killed Wainiqolo.

Ratu Golea's older brother, Ratu Kalou, was returned and he addressed all the assembled chiefs: "I don't have much longer to live," he said. "Agree together and name Ratu Golea chief of Cakaudrove."

Ratu Golea became Tui Cakau (Chief of Cakaudrove) in place of Ratu Kalou. Concerning Ratu Koila, he said, "Let Ratu Koila be my second in command, so that he will remember that I have pardoned him and above all that he will never forget that he is obliged to me for that."

Ratu Golea, now Tui Cakau, addressed his chiefs and leaders of his three thousand warriors. He instructed those who wished to be Catholic to join him the next day with Father Favre.

At that time, he said to Father Favre, "Father, all of Cakaudrove is Catholic, I beg you to receive us all today into the Catholic religion and to reunite us all for prayer."

The very cross that was the hope and inspiration in the war has been cared for over the years and is now in a glass case at Holy Cross Church in Wairiki, Taveuni Island. The plaque says the following:

"This crucifix inspired the Tui Cakau to defeat the Tongans under Ma'afu led by his warrior Wainiqolo. The crucifix was given to Tui Tunuloa for safekeeping by Ratu Golea and in 2005, after 143 years, the Tui Tunuloa, Ratu Igenasio Loaloa returned the crucifix to the Tui Cakau, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, in Wairiki, on Friday, 14th September, Holy Cross day. The Tui Cakau then traditionally handed it over to His Grace Archbishop Petero Mataca D. D. for safe-keeping. His Grace ordered that it be kept in the Church of the Holy Cross, Wairiki, for veneration by the people of Cakaudrove."

The above account of the war in Wairiki is derived from the narrative compiled by Father John Crispin of Holy Cross Church in Wairiki.

He, in turn, has obtained his information mainly from Historical Notes on the Catholic Mission of Wairiki, Taveuni, Fiji, by Father Fabiano Terrien, who spent 27 years in Wairiki from 1895 to 1922; and History of the Catholic Church in Fiji, by Father Alfred Deniau, written about 1887.

With Father Crispin's kind permission, his account has been paraphrased and/or quoted in this telling of the story.

"It's quite unique," says Father Crispin, "to have so much contemporary history written.

Especially (Father Deniau's history) is not well-known and it was only last year that we found this in Rome..."I found a reference to this writing in a French book and then it was supposed to be in Suva - and it wasn't there."

He goes on to say that the Pope gave a commission in 1836 to evangelise the South Pacific and the general archive in Rome is the place to look for records on the early part of the church in Fiji.

"Sure enough," he says, "they had this original document."

Additional entry from wikipedia

The Tui Cakau's Army was an alliance of armies allied to the nobles of Cakaudrove, in northern Fiji. These included the armies of the Tui Tunuloa and other armies from the Natewa Peninsula. Namuka tribe in Macuata, to the north of Cakaudrove, were allied to the Tui Cakau's Army also, and contributed to its defeat of the Tongan army at Wairiki in the Tongan War (I Valu ni Toga) in the late 1860s. Namuka tribe warriors slayed Vainikolo (known as Wainiqolo in Fijian), the right-hand man to the Tongan warlord Enele Ma'afu.

No comments: