One Nation, One people of God
Funeral Mass for Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare

-       Rosemary Yambune and Abigail Seta

 

Port Moresby: A Requiem Mass was held at the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium to honour and celebrate the life of the Late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare on Friday, 12th March 2021. It had the theme: ‘One nation, one people of God.’

 

The stadium was packed to capacity with several thousands of Papua New Guineans, each braved the scorching sun for long hours to bid farewell to the founding father of the nation. The mood was somber and people chatted in low tones while the 500 strong special choir formed of representatives from the different parishes sang under the baton of Peter Kakao. The harmonious singing rendered praise and thanks to God and set the stage for the liturgical celebrations to follow. School students from various secondary schools in Port Moresby assembled on the lawn right in the middle of the stadium, each holding the PNG flag high. 

 

Celebrating the Mass was Cardinal Sir John Ribat MSC, Archbishop of Port Moresby together with 11 Bishops as concelebrants. Masters of Ceremonies were Dadi Toka Jnr Chairman of the Motu Koita Assembly and Deputy Governor for National Capital District with Mr Samson Kaipu as the Funeral Mass Commentator. 

 

At the start of the mass, the grand chief’s casket was escorted into the stadium by the PNG Defense Force as they solemnly played requiem tunes on their bagpipes. The entrance procession consisted of the pall bearers who carried the casket behind the Cardinal and the bishops into the stadium to commence the Eucharistic celebration. Cardinal Ribat then laid the bible on the casket that was already draped in the black, red and gold flag of Papua New Guinea. 

 

In his homily, Cardinal Ribat highlighted the readings of the day. “The readings perfectly illustrate for us who Sir Michael Thomas Somare was and also provide a splendid summary of the life of our founding Prime Minister, the husband, loving father and a friend to many”, he said. The Cardinal spoke of the joy and enthusiasm with which he lived out his faith. “He was not only involved in the political space, but also lived out his faith in his daily life”, he said.

Connecting the gospel (Jn 17:4-8, 18-21) to the life of the late Grand Chief, the Cardinal said that he had found Sir Michael as a man of integrity and faith. “He was the salt and light for this nation and other nations, he never concealed his faith in Jesus Christ and his death helps us to promote public discourse”. The Cardinal stressed on the aspect of the unity of all people and that the life of Sir Michael should help us all to overcome divisions. “We lower our flags, we pray, we bow our heads in search of a thing, anything that might unite us”, he said.

The offertory procession was led by the New Guinea Islands dancers. Symbolic gifts from the different provinces of Papua New Guinea and the Council of Churches were then presented to the Cardinal. Following the solemn consecration Eucharistic ministers fanned out for the distributed the Holy Eucharist to Catholics across the stands.

The eulogy of the late Grand Chief was then read by his daughter, Dulciana Somare-Brush. She beautifully highlighted the highs and lows of her father’s life, stressing: Fidelity to Country, Fidelity to community and Fidelity to family and marriage.

Following the eulogy, the rite of final commendation commenced. As a sign of farewell, the Cardinal sprinkled the coffin with Holy Water and incense.

After the mass ended, wreaths were laid and the program continued with speeches of gratitude and reflections from Sir Dadi Toka, Sir Arnold Amet, Sir John Momis, Hon. Powes Parkop, Governor of NCD; Hon. James Marape, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and many others.

Nature was unable to hold it any longer. The heavens opened and lashed down a torrent of rain signifying the grief and the sadness that the people of Papua New Guinea experienced. 

Sir Michael Somare was a devout catholic. He was laid to rest in Kreer Heights in his home province of East Sepik on Tuesday, 16th March 2021. An era has ended for Papua New Guinea.

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