Kimiora Rangi (right) at the 2023 World Youth Day (WYD) Catholic festival in Lisbon, Portugal. 23082501
World Youth Day (WYD) is a recurring Catholic festival held every four years - a meeting of young people from around the world with the Pope.
It was instituted by St. John Paul II in 1985, and has
since been a moment of encounter and sharing for millions of people around the
The festival serves as a platform for spiritual
growth, connection and unity.
This year, the event drew 1.2 million youth from all
around the world to the festival held in Lisbon, Portugal between August 1 and 6,
In a journey of faith and inspiration, 23-year-old
Rangi Kimiora, the youth leader of the St Therese church in Mitiaro had the
honour of representing the Cook Islands at the renowned Catholic youth festival.
Reflecting on his profound experience at World Youth
Day, Kimiora expressed his deep gratitude to Bishop Paul Donoghue for the
opportunity to attend the event for the first time and meet Pope Frances.
Drawing from the experience, he said he feels more enlightened
in the Catholic faith.
“I feel more positive and stronger in my faith,” he
His highlight of the pilgrimage reached its pinnacle when
he had the opportunity to meet the Pope in person, a cherished lifelong memory
that will forever resonate in his heart.
“I actually held the hand of the Pope Francis in the
Vatican Meeting Room, in Rome,” he said in awe.
“We were the first audience seated in the front row
when the Pope was speaking to the crowd of over 1000 people.
“I had the opportunity of shaking his hand and seeing
him face to face, I felt so blessed.”
With the assistance of an interpreter, Kimiora said
the Pope asked where he was from, then said “your small nation will be blessed”.
When he received the call to represent the Cooks at
WYD, Kimora said he was “surprised” and overwhelmed.
“I felt quite emotional and I appreciated Bishop
Donoghue for giving this opportunity to one of us in the Pa Enua.”
Kimora departed Rarotonga on July 13, joining the 200
strong Tongan delegation at Auckland airport and through transit stopovers to
From Madrid, Spain the group caught a bus to Lisbon,
Portugal where over a million youth were congregating for over a week.
“I was proud to display our flag at the opening ceremony,
it’s a memory I also won’t forget,” he said.
“People were asking me a lot of questions about where
I was from, who we are and where we are, it was very special.”
Immersed in a sea of enthusiastic youth, all sharing a
common faith and a desire to deepen their understanding of Catholic teachings,
Kimiora said “meeting people from all over the world was also a time to
strengthen our faith.”
Thought provoking discussions and uplifting prayer
sessions fostered a sense of community and empowerment among the participants.
Discussions involved topics such as: How strong is the
“A priest from Scotland noted that if the Catholic
faith is dying, then why is that we have 1.2million youth all around the world
come to Portugal?’ Said Kimiora.
Also, the youth would like to play more of a role in
the church, he added.
“What stood out
for me in Portugal was the big number of priests and nuns.
“The vocation is so strong in their country, at the
young age of 16, some boys and girls are going into priesthood and learning to
become nuns,” he said.
The village of Fatima in Portugal, is where on May 13,
1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, appeared to three young peasant
children: Francisco (10), Jacinta (9), and Lucia (7).
It is written that these youngsters were tending their
family’s sheep when “a Lady all in white, more brilliant than the sun…
indescribably beautiful,” standing above a bush, appeared to the them.
Kimiora started “tearing up” when visiting the shrine
of the ‘Lady of Fatima’.
“For myself it was very emotional, being there made me
really think and I had quiet time to pray.”
He praises the people of Portugal saying, although
they don’t speak English their generosity was amazing and they were always
willing to help.
Kimora also visited the birthplace of St Francis of
Assisi who was born in 1181 in Assisi, a region of Spoleto, Italy.
St. Francis of Assisi gave up a life of materialism
and wealth and found his purpose in Christ.
Throughout his life, St. Francis preached the Gospel
and shared his love of all God’s creations.
“We stayed in Assisi for a day a tour, it was so
wonderful, so quiet and peaceful,” he said.
Kimiora returned to Rarotonga on 13 August,
He expressed that the World Youth Day experience has reinforced
his commitment to his faith and inspired him to make a positive impact in his
“One thing that has changed about me from when I left is
my attitude - as in my tone of voice.
“I’m a very loud person and I can react quickly and defensively
in some situations.
“I think I have changed in how I use my tone now, I’m
more calming now and I take everything in before reacting.”
Kimiora departed for Mitiaro yesterday and is
motivated to give back to the community.
“I want to strengthen the activities for our youth in
our church and including all our Mitiaro youth in the community.
“I would also like to share my experiences with all the youth and hope it will be encouraging for them.”
Kimiora would like to thank Bishop Donoghue, the
Catholic Diocese and the Mitiaro St Therese parish, for their “trust” in him to represent the