From the 1970s, past and present members of the Tai Tokerau Regional Pastoral Council in Northland wanted to recognise Bishop Pompallier’s significance by having his remains returned to Aotearoa New Zealand.
In 1999 a kaupapa (set of principles and plans which act as a foundation for action) was put forward to Diocese of Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn and relevant Church councils.
After much consultation and planning, it was agreed that a group of New Zealand representatives would travel to France, where Pompallier was buried, to bring his remains back to New Zealand.
On 30 December 2000 a group of 37 pilgrims embarked on the hikoi (journey), led by the tenth successor to Pompallier, Bishop Patrick Dunn, and Auckland priest, Pa Henare Tate. The pilgrimage group was made up of kaumatua and kuia from the Hokianga, Marist priests and brothers, Compassion and Mercy Sisters and others with a connection to the kaupapa.
The first destination was Rome, where the pilgrimage group met with Pope John Paul II. This was followed by a visit to Lyon, France, which was the place of origin of Pompallier and others associated with the Catholic mission in the Pacific and New Zealand, such as Mother Suzanne Aubert.
On 9 January 2001 the pilgrims gathered at Puteaux Cemetery in Paris where Pompallier’s remains were exhumed. Following this was a solemn procession of the coffin, which was covered by a korowai (Maori cloak), through the opened great doors of Notre Dame de Paris.
Pompallier lay in state all day in a side chapel, which became a marae for the occasion. The group kept vigil, praying and singing, until the entrance procession for the final evening Mass, which was celebrated by Bishop Dunn and the Apostolic Nuncio in France.
All hymns were in Maori, with Mo Maria being the first Maori hymn to Our Lady to be sung in the 900 year old history of the church.
Pompallier’s remains arrived in New Zealand on 24 January 2002. A tour of his remains began in Dunedin and included all of the dioceses. The remains were accompanied 24 hours a day and ended up in the Hokianga, where they were re-interred under the altar at St Mary's, Motuti on 20 April 2002.