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Diocese of Christchurch

Its center being Christchurch, the capital of Canterbury, New Zealand

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Christchurch, Diocese of (CHRISTOPOLITANA), its center being Christchurch, the capital of Canterbury, New Zealand. It comprises the provinces of Canterbury and Westland, a small portion of the Province of Nelson, and the Chatham Islands. In July, 1840, the French corvette l’Aube started for Akaroa (Canterbury) to land a body of settlers there, and to annex to France the South Island of New Zealand. The former project was accomplished; the latter was frustrated by Lieutenant-Governor Hobson. Having ascertained the destination and purpose of the expedition, he raced the corvette to Akaroa in the warship Britomart and, four days before the arrival of the French settlers, proclaimed the South Island British territory. The first English colonists (the

“Canterbury Pilgrims”) landed at Lyttelton December 16, 1850. They, and many that followed them, were sent out by the Canterbury Association, a High Church organization whose colonizing scheme was described by Low Churchmen as a “Puseyite invasion of New Zealand“. The Canterbury concessions (nearly 3,000,000 fertile acres) were intended to be and remain a great Anglican monopoly. This, however, was prevented by the Constitution Act of 1852. In all Canterbury, including Akaroa, there were 136 Catholics in 1851. During the first two decades they were ministered to by the Marist Fathers Comte, Pesant, Tripe, Seon, Petitjean, and others. In 1860 Christchurch received its first resident priest, Father Chataignier, S. M. On September 11 of that year he laid the foundations of the first church in Canterbury, a wooden structure, 28 by 18 ft. A more spacious church was erected in 1864. Enlarged and beautified by Father Ginaty, S. M., this subsequently served as a pro-cathedral from 1887 till 1905. On the discovery of gold in 1864 there was a great influx of people to Westland, which led to the formation of missions in Hokitika, Greymouth, and elsewhere on the West Coast. The Diocese of Christchurch, formerly part of the Diocese of Wellington, was established by papal Brief, May 10, 1887. Its first bishop, the Right Reverend John Joseph Grimes, S. M., was consecrated in London, July 26, 1887. On his arrival in Christchurch there were in the diocese 35 churches, 16 schools, 7 convents, and 17 priests (8 secular and 9 Marists). The history of the diocese since then is one of closer organization and steady progress. The Marist Brothers and the Sisters of Nazareth were introduced; new parochial districts formed; 30 churches built or enlarged; 15 presbyteries, 9 schools, 10 convents, and 3 monasteries (Marist Brothers) erected; and a white stone cathedral, one of the most beautiful religious edifices in Australasia, was opened February 12, 1905.

STATISTICS (August, 1907): Parochial districts, 21; priests 38 (20 Marists, 18 seculars); Marist Brothers, 13; nuns, 150; convents, 17; Marist Brothers’ monasteries, 3; boarding schools (girls), 6; primary schools, 30; charitable institutions, 2 (Nazareth Home and a great Magdalen Asylum); Catholic population, about 25,000.


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