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Charles Martel Allemand Lavigerie

Charles Martel Allemand Lavigerie

Charles Martel Allemand Lavigerie (1825-1892) was a French cardinal who founded the White Fathers and the White Sisters in Africa. He was a leader in abolishing slavery in Africa.

Charles Lavigerie was born on Oct. 31, 1825, in Bayonne. After studying at St-Sulpice in Paris, he was ordained in 1849. He received his doctorate in letters in 1850 and in theology in 1853. He was made associate professor of ecclesiastical history at the Sorbonne, becoming titular of the chair in 1857. Lavigerie spent years in Syria as a relief worker after the Christian massacre there in 1860, and for the rest of his life he cherished the ecumenical vision of recognition of the Eastern Churches.

Appointed bishop of Nancy in 1863, Lavigerie sought to manifest in concrete acts the one word of his episcopal arms: Caritas (love to all). This episcopate was "too small" a challenge, so after 4 years he accepted the call to the unpopular "colonial" see of Algiers. There he began to fight for life issues of the Church in a global context: freedom of religion (inclusive of liberty of Christian propagation), all sorts of social work, and the conversion "of the whole barbaric continent of 200 million souls" as he tried to reach out into the "heart of Africa" from Algiers. For this purpose he created the orders of the White Fathers in 1867 and the White Sisters 2 years later.

Lavigerie's instructions for the preparation of Africans for baptism are still valid today. As a Christian statesman, he could not fail to see the scars slavery had brought to his adopted continent. Together with Protestant missionary abolitionists, Lavigerie became a major voice in Europe for the liberation of slaves. He could speak for the whole continent, as he became a cardinal in 1882 and was created primate of Africa in 1884.

Lavigerie was convinced that French civilization and Christian missions had to go hand in hand. That was accepted in his early days. "As missionaries," he said, "we also work for France." The tricolor and the cross he had merged in one symbol of liberation.

On Nov. 12, 1890, Lavigerie created a sensation when he proclaimed before an assembly of officials in Algiers the obligation of French Catholics to support the republican regime. For this the monarchists severely criticized him. He died in Algiers on Nov. 26, 1892.

Further Reading

The standard biography of Lavigerie in English is J. de Arteche, The Cardinal of Africa: Charles Lavigerie (trans. 1964). William Burridge, Destiny Africa (1966), is a major source of information on Lavigerie's missionary principles. See also G. D. Kittler, The White Fathers (1927), and J. Bouniol, The White Fathers and Their Missions (1929).

Additional Sources

Renault, Francois, Cardinal Lavigerie: churchman, prophet, and missionary, London; Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Athlone Press, 1994. □

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Lavigerie, Charles Martial Allemand

Charles Martial Allemand Lavigerie (shärl märsēäl´ älmäN´ lävēzhərē´), 1825–92, French churchman, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, b. near Bayonne. He was ordained in 1849 and became prominent in the newly formed Écoles d'Orient. He was an authority on Islam. He was bishop of Nancy (1863–67), archbishop of Algiers (1867–92), and in 1884 he was named archbishop of the reestablished see of Carthage, a jurisdiction that included all of French Africa. His most successful efforts were directed toward African missions to Muslims, and he founded the White Fathers (the Society of Missionaries of Africa) for this work. He was a leader in the abolition of slavery in Africa. Cardinal Lavigerie created a sensation when (1890) he repudiated royalism and called on Catholics to support the Third Republic wholeheartedly.

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"Lavigerie, Charles Martial Allemand." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Lavigerie, Charles Martial Allemand." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lavigerie-charles-martial-allemand