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Royal welcome for King of Tonga

Last updated 16:13 24/02/2013

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Local Tongan children got up close to their King when he attended a church service in central Wellington today.

King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau'u Tuku'aho are on their first official visit to New Zealand.

They attended a service at the Wesley Methodist Church on Taranaki St. Tapa cloths lined the church aisle and children waited excitedly in the foyer for the monarch to arrive.

Reverend Viliami Finau said the children had been excited about the visit for weeks.

"It is very exciting for the little ones. It's all they have been talking about," he said. "I don't think I've ever seen my grandchildren get up and ready for church so fast."

The service was attended by members from Tongan churches from around the region including Wellington, Tawa, Lower Hutt, Avalon and Upper Hutt.

Three choirs and a brass band performed for the King and finished the service with a rousing Tongan rendition of Handel's Messiah.

Reverend Finau was noticeably emotional about having the King attend his church.

"I'm honoured to have the King in my church. It's very humbling," he said.

"I have served his father for many years, but I have never had the honour of preaching for the King before. This isn't just a Wellington Methodist gathering either. It's a Tongan get together. It's great to see the community come together to have a service with the king."

King Tupou VI will receive a state welcome at Government House tomorrow and finish his trip in Auckland on Wednesday.

The royal party also includes Tonga's Minister for Education and Training Hon Dr Ana Mau Taufe'ulungaki. King Tupou VI took over the reign after his brother, George Tupou V, died in Hong Kong last March.

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- The Dominion Post

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