Lavigerie, Charles Martial Allemand

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Cardinal, archbishop of Algiers and of Carthage, founder of the White Fathers and the White Sisters; b. Bayonne, France, Oct. 31, 1825; d. Algiers, Nov. 26, 1892. His father held a position in the customs, and his mother was the daughter of the director of the royal mint at Bayonne. Lavigerie owed his early religious formation to the influence of the clergy of Bayonne and of Monsignor Félix A. P. dupanloup. During his studies at Saint-Sulpice in Paris he formed a friendship with the Sulpician Charles Baudry, a leader among French ontologists. Baudry's theological learning, as well as his vigorous ideas about political morality and spirituality, left a deep mark upon Lavigerie. His consciousness of his missionary vocation began in those formative years. After his ordination in 1849 he obtained doctorates in letters (1850) and in theology (1853) and was made associate professor of ecclesiastical history at the Sorbonne, becoming titular of the chair in 1857. In that same year his responsibilities were further increased, for he took under his direction the Oeuvre des écoles d'Orient. In the discharge of his duties in connection with this position he made, in 1860, at the time of the massacres in Syria, a trip to the East that left a lasting imprint upon his missionary thought. As an auditor of the Rota (186163), finding it necessary to take a stand upon the Roman question, he favored a general solution to the difficulties of the Holy See by a renewal of the spirit, the methods, and the organization of Church government. Elevated to the See of Nancy in 1863, Lavigerie was able in the space of four years to bring about a notable reform. He sought particularly to raise the intellectual level of the clergy and to bring his priests into contact with contemporary society.

His nomination to the See of Algiers in 1867 enabled him at last to realize his missionary vocation. From the time of his promotion, his apostolic vision reached far beyond the confines of his diocese and embraced the whole of continental Africa. His first care was to obtain from the reluctant French government freedom to exercise the apostolate among the Algerian Muslims. This brought the archbishop into conflict with the governor, Marshall MacMahon, but in 1868 he succeeded in obtaining from Napoleon III the assurance that no obstacle would be put in the way of the works of charity undertaken by the Church. In 1868 Rome made Lavigerie apostolic delegate of western Sahara and the Sudan. During this time he laid the foundations of the Society of Missionaries of Africa (the White Fathers). This was conceived as an institute of secular priests living in community; it was to be apostolic in its purpose and Ignatian in the character of its spirituality, and its members, in conformity with the spirit Lavigerie had shown from the beginning, were to adapt themselves in every respect compatible with Christian faith and morals to the life and mentality, of the Africans among whom they worked. The Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, founded in 1869, was a religious society of women with the same missionary objective and sharing the same spirit of accommodation.

At Vatican Council I the archbishop, after associating himself with a third party of accord that sought to reconcile the differences between those who favored the definition of papal infallibility and those who thought it inopportune, gave his placet to the constitution Pastor aeternus.

In 1873 Lavigerie established his missionaries in the Sahara and in Kabylie. Always interested in the reunion of Churches, he founded in 1877 at St. Anne of Jerusalem a Greek Melchite seminary and entrusted it to his missionaries. In this he was motivated by a desire to increase among Eastern Catholics an esteem for their culture and a respect for their theological, canonical, and liturgical traditions.

In 1878 he founded the missions of equatorial Africa and his responsibilities as apostolic delegate were extended to include that area. Without personally visiting this new field he provided for the restoration of the practice of the primitive Church with regard to the catechumenate. When Tunisia was occupied by the French in 1881, Lavigerie was named apostolic administrator of that area, and he established many foundations in his new jurisdiction.

Leo XIII made him a cardinal in 1882, and two years later gave him the title of archbishop of Carthage and primate of Africa. From the same pope he received two missions. The first, an official one, was to stir up world opinion on the subject of African slavery. In compliance with the Pope's wish, Lavigerie began a resounding campaign, the echoes of which reached Europe and America. The conference of the great powers at Brussels in 1890 adopted proposals with regard to the best method of achieving the abolition of slavery that were in large part in conformity with suggestions Lavigerie had made, but that this was effected through the influence of the suggestions is less certain.

The second mission, an unofficial one, was to rally French Catholics to the support of the republican regime in France so as to overcome the anticlerical majority in parlement and make it possible to change the laws that barred the way to a rapprochement between France and the Holy See. Lavigerie, who from the accession of Leo XIII had actively upheld the French policy of the Holy See, launched the ralliement by proclaiming before a large assembly of officials in Algiers on Nov. 12, 1890, the obligation of French Catholics to adhere to the republican form of government. This famous toast d'Alger angered French monarchists, who criticized Lavigerie severely and heaped vituperation upon him. The cardinal replied with his spirited Lettre à un catholique, in which he attacked the claims of the pretenders and even went so far as to suggest that monarchy was an outgrown institution. But the Lettre à un catholique is only one document among others of equal importance and the antimonarchism he expressed in it is only one, and a secondary, aspect of his thought on the ralliement.

Apostolic zeal, a sense of the contemporary realities, and a constant concern for the reform of the Church were the most distinctive traits of the personality of Lavigerie.

Bibliography: l. baunard, Le Cardinal Lavigerie, 2 v. (Paris 1898). j. bouniol, The White Fathers and Their Missions (London 1929). g. d. kittler, The White Fathers (New York 1957). j. de arteche, The Cardinal of Africa: Charles Lavigerie, tr. m. mitchell (London 1964). j. tournier, Le Cardinal Lavigerie et son action politique, 18631892 (Paris 1913); Bibliographie du cardinal Lavigerie (Paris 1913). s. c. wellens, La Societé des Missionaires d'Afrique (Louvain 1952). f. rauscher, Die Mitarbeit der einheimischen Laien am Apostolat in den Missionen der Weissen Väter (Münster 1953). g. dindinger, "Missionsschrifttum von und über Kardinal Lavigerie," Miscellanea Pietro Fumasoni-Biondi (Rome 1947) 107191, bibliog. x. de montclos, Lavigerie, le Saint-Siège et l'Église, 18461878 (Paris 1965); Le Toast d'Alger, 18901891 (Paris 1966).

[x. de montclos]

Charles Martel Allemand Lavigerie

views updated Jun 08 2018

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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Charles Martial Allemand Lavigerie