JUST six months away from celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Methodist Church in Fiji has lost its president Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu.
Mr Waqairatu passed away yesterday morning at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva.
Church general secretary Reverend Tevita Nawadra confirmed the head of the Methodist Church died after a short illness.
"He has been sickly. He was admitted at the hospital for two days before he passed on," Mr Nawadra said.
Meanwhile, the government said it was "shocked and saddened" by Mr Waqairatu's sudden passing.
"The government extends its sincere condolences to the Reverend Waqairatu's family and the Methodist Church community," a government statement said.
Mr Waqairatu was 66 years old.
He was elected president of the Methodist Church in Fiji in August last year following its annual conference ahead of Reverend Ame Tugaue and Tevita Nawadra.
He promised to reform the church and made a significant step by banning the consumption of yaqona and smoking during the church conference and at all church facilities.
He was also the turaga tui Nasau from Naroi in Moala, Lau. He is survived by his wife and daughter.
The church will hold a media conference today to announce the funeral arrangements.