BICENTENNIAL OF PACIFIC SAINT CELEBRATED IN FRANCE

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SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, April 30) - Some fifty Wallis natives
residing in France took part in weekend celebrations marking the bicentenary of
Saint Pierre Chanel in his home village of Cuet ,RFO's
Télé-Nouvelle-Calédonie reports.

In the French Pacific territories of New Caledonia, home to
20,000 Wallisians and Futunians, and in Wallis and Futuna, massive celebrations
are scheduled later this year.

They will include a show dedicated to the life of the priest and
culminate on July 12 with a church service to be conducted by Nouméa archbishop
Pierre-Marie Calvet.

In France, pilgrimages are to be organized in several key
locations to "walk the steps of Saint Pierre Chanel".

Pierre-Louis-Marie Chanel was born on July 12, 1803 in the tiny
hamlet of Cuet in the Bresse region of France, which has now become a landmark
for all Wallisians and Futunians traveling to France.

In 1837, after completing theological studies and a few years of
ministry in his home region, he arrived in Futuna, where Christianity was then
unknown.

His travel companion, Monsignor Pompallier, went on to New
Zealand and later became the first to introduce the Christian Gospel to the
Maori people.

In Futuna, Chanel was at first well-treated by the indigenous
people, including one of the local Kings, Niuliki.

But after a few years, Niuliki became worried of the increasing
pace of conversions of his people to Christianity by Chanel, who had then become
known as "the man with the good heart".

The King stopped sending food to the missionaries, who were then
forced to eat their dog.

Chanel, a Marist who by then has started receiving death
threats, said "religion is now implanted on this island. It will not be
lost should I die, because it is not the work of men, it comes from God."

In April 1841, when Niuliki's own son publicly declared himself
a Christian, the King became furious and launched a massive attack on the
mission.

On April 28, 1841, a group of spear-wielding Futunians found
Chanel in his garden, beat him unconscious and proceeded to loot the mission.

One of the warriors who was married to Niuliki's daughter,
Musumusu, later came back and noticed the priest was still breathing. He
finished him by striking a fatal hatch blow on his neck.

A few years later, Christianity had spread to the whole island
of Futuna, including Chanel's assassins, then to neighboring Wallis.

On June 13, 1954, Pope Pius XII canonized Pierre-Louis-Marie
Chanel, who became Saint Pierre Chanel, patron of the Oceanians.

May 1, 2003

Oceania Flash: E-mail/Courriel:padec@iname.com 

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