15 Nov 2007

Fiji bishop may face NZ and Australia travel ban

2:14 pm on 15 November 2007

There is uncertainty whether the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Fiji, Archbishop Petero Mataca, will be allowed to travel to Australia and New Zealand to attend church meetings.

Archbishop Mataca, who is also chairman of the Council of Pacific Island Bishops, recently accepted an invitation to co-chair the Fiji interim administration's National Council for Building a Better Fiji.

The Fijilive news website reports that the Australian high commission in Suva would not comment on Archbishop Mataca's visa status.

But a spokesman who did not wish to be named said travel restrictions apply to interim government appointments including to those in the senior public service and government boards.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Mataca has been given a traditional welcome in his position as co-chair of the National Council.

He told the gathering that he chose to accept his co-chair role after careful consideration and with a clear conscience to contribute to finding a way forward for Fiji and its people.

Archbishop Mataca said he looked forward to contributing independently and productively to the work of the National Council and was not deterred by voices of dissent within the Catholic community.