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Diocese of Martinique

Island in the French Lesser Antilles

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Martinique, Diocese of (SANCTI PETRI ET ARCIS GALLICIE.) Martinique is one of the French Lesser Antilles, 380 sq. miles in area; it was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, and colonized by the French about 1625; it was in the hands of the English from 1762 to 1783, was again occupied by them in 1794, 1802, 1809, 1815, and again became French territory in 1818. The name Martinique comes from the Carib word Madinima. On Good Friday, 1640, Peres Bouton and Hempteau, Jesuits, set out for Martinique, where they founded the celebrated Jesuit mission. Peres Ceubergeon and Gueimu, Jesuits, were slain there in 1654 by the revolting Caribs. The “Memoire concernant la Mission des Peres de la Compagnie de Jesus dans les Iles frangaises de l’Amerique” addressed in 1707 by Pere Combaid to Pere Tamburini, General of the Jesuits, and published in 1907 by Pere Rochemonteix, contains moving details concerning the catechetical instruction of the negro slaves by the Jesuits. In 1753 Pere de Lavalette was named superior general and Prefect Apostolic of the Mission of Martinique; his business transactions were later the cause of very violent attacks on the Society. Pere Rochemonteix has proved that Pere de Lavalette acted thus without the knowledge of even his fellow-missionaries of Martinique or of his superiors at Paris and Rome; that when at length, in 1759 and 1760, the missionaries accused him of taking part in forbidden traffic they had no written proofs, and that the superiors were not certain until 1762, after the investigation of Pere de La Marche, when Pere de Lavalette was deposed, silenced, and sent back to Europe. When in 1848 the Second Republic suppressed slavery in the colonies the prefect Apostolic, Castelli, in a public address hailed the new epoch as an “era of light and evangelical regeneration”.

The Diocese of Martinique is suffragan of the Archdiocese of Bordeaux, was created September 27, 1850, and by a law of July 20, and a decree of December 18, 1850. At first the see was fixed at Fort de France, was transferred to St. Pierre on September 12, 1853, and the bishop took the title of Bishop of St. Pierre and Fort de France. Bishop Le Herpeur (1851-1858) organized the pilgrimage of Notre Dame de la Delivrande. Bishop Fava (1872-1879) founded in 1872 a religious weekly bulletin, which later became the daily “Le Bien Public”. Martinique was cruelly tried, May 8, 1902, by the eruption of Mt. Pelee, which had long been considered an extinct volcano. This eruption completely destroyed the town of St. Pierre. The island suffered also from the cyclone of August 8, 1903, and the earthquakes of 1906. After the catastrophe of 1902 the episcopal residence was again transferred to Fort de France. The Diocese of Martinique contains 170,000 inhabitants and 46 priests. There are in the diocese Fathers of the Holy Ghost, Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny and of St. Paul of Chartres, hospital and teaching sisters. The Congregation of the Daughters of Notre Dame de la Delivrande had its origin in the diocese. The present bishop, Msgr. de Cormont, was born at Paris, France, March 29, 1847, chosen as bishop December 14, 1899, in succession to Msgr. Carmene, who resigned.

GEORGES GOYAII


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