Oceania, The Catholic Church in

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Oceania is a region in the central and south Pacific Ocean that contains numerous islands. It is located east of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia. Oceania includes Polynesia, the huge triangle formed by Hawaii, New Zealand, and Easter; Melanesia, the island groups south of the equator, north and east of Australia from Papua New Guinea to the Fijis; and Micronesia, stretching northward from the equator to the Marianas and eastward from the Palau to the Gilbert Islands. The following essay presents discussion of the development of the Catholic church in the region as a whole, followed by discussion of events in some of the island groups.


Early Contacts. The Polynesians were the first group in Oceania to have extensive contacts with Europeans;

they established relations with the newcomers and were fairly successful in adapting to European ways. In Melanesia, and particularly on the island of New Guinea, climate, terrain, and fierce resistance among indigenous peoples inhibited the introduction of European ideas for several centuries, and parts of Melanesia continue to practice the ancient religions of their ancestors. In Micronesia development was hindered by the multiplicity of small islands scattered over more than two million square miles. Language presented a particularly formidable obstacle to religious instruction: 12 Polynesian and 15 Micronesian tongues, and between 500 and 600 Melanesian languages or dialects were known to be spoken in the region. Before the coming of the missioners, Oceania had no written languages.

Cultural and economic patterns in Oceania varied in accordance with the broad divisions of race, the size, nature, flora and fauna of the islands, possibilities of inter-communication, and other factors. Contact with Europeans, beginning with sailors, beachcombers and missionaries, and continuing to the accelerated development occasioned by World War II, also affected culture. The economy, originally a purely subsistence one, was modified by the raising of cash crops as European contacts gave rise to new needs and the possibility of satisfying them.

Catholic Missionary Activity. The first priest known to have visited Oceania was the fleet-chaplain of Magellan in 1521. Native people occasionally met with chaplains of the Spanish ships. A Hawaiian tradition seems to indicate the presence of a priest there for some time, probably in the late 16th century. The names of many islandsPentecost, Espiritu Santo, Asuncionare evidence of the faith of the explorers. In 1658 Jean Paulmier de Courtonne proposed missions in "the southern land," although nothing came of this. In 1798 the Congregation for the propagation of the faith (Propaganda) entrusted the paccanarists with a mission field extending from the Cape of Good Hope to Japan, Australia, and adjacent lands, including part of Oceania. Again there was no result. In 1829 Henri de Solages, appointed prefect apostolic of Réunion island, near Madagascar, proposed to extend his mission to Oceania. Propaganda confided to de Solages a prefecture extending from Easter Island to New Zealand, and from the equator to the Tropic of Capricorn, but this plan ended with his death in Madagascar in 1832. A similarly unsuccessful attempt to evangelize Tahiti was made by Spanish Franciscans who arrived from Peru in 177275. The first regular mission in Oceania was established in the Marianas in 1668 by Diego de Sanvitores, SJ; this mission was later staffed by the Augustinian Recollects and after by the Capuchins.

From about 1800 the Pacific area was visited by a flood of adventurers, whalers, and traders seeking profit and pleasure. It is doubtful that the Polynesians would have survived had it not been for another group who came to save them, in every sense of the word. These were the missionaries, first non-Catholics and then Catholics. Their sometimes bitter differences and petty persecutions are regrettable, but the zeal and spirit of Christian sacrifice displayed by men and women of both groups were noble. The presence of Protestants stimulated later comers and led to an astonishing Catholic expansion.

In 1825 Pierre coudrin, founder of the Fathers of the sacred hearts, offered his group's services to the Holy See concurrent with a request of Propaganda for the establishment of a mission in Hawaii. The Prefecture Apostolic of the Sandwich Islands was established in 1825 and the first priests and brothers arrived two years later. By 1831 these priests were expelled from Hawaii and sought another mission; the prefecture made from the

Marquesas, Tuamotus, and Society Islands in 1833 was entrusted to them. This prefecture, together with the prefecture of the Sandwich Islands, formed the Vicariate Apostolic of Eastern Oceania (1833), extending from the Sandwich, or Hawaiian, Islands south to the Society Islands, and westward from Easter Island to the northern Cook Islands.

Western Oceania, a new mission, was accepted by the marist fathers. As a result, in 1836 the Vicariate of Western Oceania was erected over Melanesia and the Caroline, Marshall, and Gilbert Islands of Micronesia. The first missionaries, including St. Peter chanel, set out the same year. The first missions were established in Wallis and Futuna, New Zealand, and then in Tonga, New Caledonia, Samoa, and elsewhere. The following years brought tragedy as the Church attempted to establish a presence in Oceania. By 1850 the two vicariates of Eastern and Western Oceania had been divided into ten vicariates. In 1841 St. Peter Chanel was martyred at Futuna; Bishop Epalle was killed on Santa Isabel in 1845; Brother Blaise Marmoiton was killed in New Caledonia, and about the same time two priests and a brother were killed and eaten in the Solomons. The Marists lost so many men that they had to withdraw from the Solomons.

The Milan Foreign Mission Society, later called the pontifical institute for foreign missions, replaced the Marists but in turn withdrew after the murder of Father Mazzuconi in 1855.

In 1847 Propaganda encouraged Bishop bataillon to set up a seminary. In 1856 three students from Oceania entered the Propaganda College in Rome. In 1859 a minor seminary started near Sydney, Australia; it closed after some years, then reopened in 1874 on Wallis as a major seminary and produced a number of priests for Wallis, Futuna, Tonga, and Samoa.

Nearly 30 years passed before the Vicariates of Melanesia and Micronesia were confided to the sacred heart missionaries. In 1882 they began work in New Britain, establishing a flourishing mission under the direction of Bishop couppÉ. Three years later they landed in New Guinea, progressing to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in 1888 and to the Marshalls in 1891. The Society of the divine word was called upon to take charge of northeastern New Guinea in 1896. Countless religious priests, brothers, and sisters who were members or associates of these two institutesdied of malaria and other diseases; others were killed by the natives. In western New Guinea, missions were established from Indonesia. The Caroline Islands mission, begun by Jesuits in 1731, collapsed with the order's expulsion from the Spanish colonies in 1767, but began again under Spanish Capuchins when Spain's jurisdiction over the islands was established in 1886. Their effectiveness was such that after 1945 the rate of development in Papua New Guinea would require the added services of Franciscans, Capuchins, Dominicans, Passionists, Montfort Fathers and Marianhill Missionaries to staff newly formed prefectures or vicariates.

Mission Methods and Problems. When missions commenced in Oceania, anthropology and its related sciences were practically nonexistent, providing European missionaries with little or no preparation for the task of relating to the indigenous people of the region. To communicate, missionaries had to learn the language and prepare a grammar and dictionary at the same time, a task made more difficult by their failure to comprehend native cultures. Missionaries also had little or no medical training, with the result that malaria and other tropical diseases killed many, both natives and Europeans. Tragic blunders were made, the result of ignorance of native beliefs and customs, and the missions perhaps rightfully received the blame for the disintegration of native life and the death of thousands. However, this disintegration had already begun with the arrival of the whalers, beachcombers, and slavers; it likely would have been much worse but for the presence and the efforts of the missionaries. Paying for their inevitable mistakes often with their lives, missionaries were the principal force guiding the natives to the modern era: they introduced formal education, a written language, printing presses, and training in arts, crafts, and other skills. Most schools in Melanesia remained under mission control into the 20th century, though they were eventually aided and supervised by governments. Some missionaries found time to do anthropological and ethnological work of inestimable value.

Catholicism was introduced to Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, the Gilberts, and other islands with the help of natives who had been converted elsewhere. When the Solomon Islands missions were begun again in 1897, Samoan and Fijian catechists accompanied the priests. Catechists, after training, were entrusted with the care of congregations that would otherwise only receive a visit from the priests after long intervals; they taught school, conducted daily prayers and Sunday services, baptized in case of necessity, assisted the sick, and buried the dead.

The Modern Era. World War I impeded the missions in Oceania principally by interrupting the supply of personnel and income. World War II had a more direct impact, as mission stations were destroyed and missionaries interned. From 1940 to 1945, 128 priests, brothers, and sisters were killed or died of disease and starvation while in Axis captivity. In New Guinea, New Britain, the Solomons, and Micronesia, stations and staffs were almost annihilated. The interruption of regular instruction plus the demoralizing influence of wartime conditions led to a revival of pagan beliefs in some areas.

From the mid-20th century onward, conditions improved greatly. Oceanian mission schools underwent constant improvement, with many vicariates providing some form of technical education, often under the guidance of brothers. Sisters conducted schools, dispensaries, hospitals, and leprosaria, and did much to raise the status of women from their former condition of servitude in the islands. With the opening of a major seminary in New Caledonia in 1939, priests were trained for all the French language vicariates of Oceania.

Vincentians and Columban Fathers continued to be active in the region, along with Marist Brothers, Christian Brothers of Ploermel, Brothers of the Sacred Heart, and many congregations of sisters. Oceania also had a number of diocesan institutes of brothers and sisters.

Political changes altered the face of Oceania through the second half of the 20th century, as the breakup of colonial empires continued and trust territories established by the United Nations following World War II were dissolved. In 1963, the western half of the island of New Guinea, long held by the Dutch, was ceded to Indonesia as part of the Irian Jaya province; 12 years later the eastern half of the island became the independent state of Papua New Guinea. In 1970 Tonga and Fiji gained independence after a century as a British colony. In New Caledonia a nationalist movement that took shape in the 1980s lost support and the region remained under French rule. In 1986 the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands were both formed from the remnants of the U.N. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and organized under the diocese of Caroline Islands.

By 2000 the population of Oceania was 29 percent Catholic. In 1998 an historic meeting occurred during the first Synod of Bishops for Oceania; problems addressed by the 117 bishops in attendance included increasing secularization, chronic unemployment, poverty, and sexual abuse by clergy. Issues relating to the specific ministry of the region included the shortage of priests, inculturation, religious pluralism, the rights of minorities, and geographical barriers. The Church remained steadfast in its ability to respond to the many natural disasters that affected the region; the devastation wrought by a 1998 tidal wave that swept through Papua New Guinea, destroying entire villages along the northern coast, was addressed by Catholic organizations throughout the region.

[s. j. bourke/eds.]


The Cook Islands. Consisting of 15 small islands stretching over 850,000 square miles, the Cook Islands are divided into two groups: the mountainous Lower Cook Islands of volcanic origin and the coral Northern Cook Islands. Captain James Cook discovered the region between 1773 and 1777. Christian evangelization began in 1821 by Protestants from the London Missionary Society; almost all the Maori population were converted to Christianity, a native clergy established, and a workable civil administration organized. The first Catholic missionaries were the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts, who arrived in 1894; they were followed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny five years later. Initially the Catholics encountered concerted opposition from local Protestant pastors and were for a time limited to their mission schools as the only practical channel of missionary activity. The Cook Islands became a British protectorate in 1888, and remained predominantly Protestant. Annexation to New Zealand in 1901 brought an ever-improving public school system that heavily taxed the resources of the missionaries to emulate. In 1922 the islands were detached ecclesiastically from the Vicariate Apostolic of Tahiti and became a prefecture apostolic; they became a vicariate apostolic in 1948 and later a diocese was established at Rarotonga. By 2000 the population of 20,407 contained 3,000 Catholics. Formal relations with the Holy See were established in April 1999.

[t. grannell/eds.]

The Fiji Islands. The Fiji Islands comprises the Fiji Archipelago and Rotuma, as well as some 100 inhabited islands. The indigenous population, Melanesian with Polynesian strains, were originally a fierce people with many brutal customs. French Marist Fathers, sent by Bishop Bataillon in 1844, began Catholic evangelization after British Wesleyan missionaries were solidly established. Finding the resultant religious and national tensions overpowering, they almost abandoned the area. As conditions slowly improved, a prefecture apostolic was created (1863) with 1,650 Catholics in three mission stations. Father Jean Baptiste Bréhéret, SM, struggled for 24 years against the increasing strength of Methodism, which, up to 1870, had won the chiefs. The vicariate (diocese in 1966) at Suva was erected in 1887 with seven stations and 4,650 Catholics. Bp. Julian Vidal, SM (18871922), built permanent churches, including Suva cathedral, instituted a native sisterhood (1891), and opened the famed leprosarium at Makogai (1911). He and Bishop Nicolas, SM (192241), introduced teaching congregations of brothers and sisters for their new schools. Beginning in 1944 Bp. Victor Foley, SM, revitalized education, beginning with teacher training, and encouraged the foundation of credit unions among the Fijians. In 2000 the population of 832,494 was predominately Protestant; the Catholic population of approximately 82,500 was divided among 34 parishes and tended by 113 priests. There were 44 primary and 18 secondary Catholic schools in operation on the islands.

[j. e. bell/eds.]

Kiribati. Kiribati encompasses a group of islands situated near the meeting point of the equator and the international dateline. Sixteen coral atolls, occupying 166 square miles, comprise the region, formerly the Gilbert Island colony. The region was made part of the Vicariate Apostolic of Micronesia in 1844, although missionaries were not yet at work in the region. Protestant missioners arrived in Kiribati c. 1850, followed by the first French Catholics, members of the Sacred Heart Missionaries, in 1888. Along with the Ellice Islands (now Tuvalu), the region was incorporated into the Vicariate Apostolic of the Gilbert Islands in 1897, the same year it became part of the British Commonwealth as the Gilbert and Ellice Island Colony of the Western Pacific High Commission. The vicariate spread over more than two million square miles of the Pacific Ocean. This vast distance, plus the fact that the Gilbertese are Micronesian, while the Ellice Islanders are Polynesian and their languages very dissimilar, resulted in the eventual split in the group. During World War II the mission suffered heavy losses. Through the remainder of the 20th century, education remained a major concern of the Catholic mission, which enrolled 90 percent of the children in its schools by the 1970s. After 1966 the region gained a diocese at Tarawa and Nauru that supported Kiribati's 23 parishes. Half the population of approximately 80,000 was Catholic in 2000.

French Polynesia. French Polynesia is comprised of the 11 Marquesas Islands and Tahiti, and totals 118 islands and atols. Discovered by the Spanish in 1595 and visited by Captain James Cook in 1774, they were claimed by France in 1842 though the Island of Nuku Hiva was briefly garrisoned by Americans in 1813. The unusual fierceness of the islanders, more than their geographic remoteness, hindered early evangelization. The Protestant London Missionary Society arrived in the region in 1785 but withdrew in 1825 because of these difficulties. Picpus Fathers worked in Tahiti beginning in 1831. The Fathers of the sacred hearts arrived in the Marquesas Islands in 1838; in ten years they converted only 216. While the baptism of the king and queen of the Marquesas in 1853 marked progress, missionaries continued to confront such issues as the adherence to pagan customs, alcoholism, tribal wars, and diseases such as that which decimated the population between 1838 and 1880. Persecution forced the missionaries to abandon the islands more than once, although by 1900 Catholicism began to take root. The Vicariate Apostolic of the Marquesas Islands (1848) became the Diocese of Taiohae in 1966. An overseas territory of France since 1946, the region is administered from Tahiti. By 2000 there were 85 parishes in the region, and the population of approximately 250,000 was 30 percent Catholic and 50 percent Protestant.


New Britain. New Britain is the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago, 13,000 square miles in area. Administratively it is part of Papua New Guinea. Following its discovery by the British in 1700, Wesleyan missioners were the first to arrive. marist fathers arrived in 1844 and were joined by the Milan Foreign Missions Institute. In 1882 the area was entrusted to the Sacred Heart Missionaries. The region was administered as New Pomerania after becoming a German colony in 1884. Louis Couppé, the first vicar apostolic, arrived in 1888 and developed the mission after abolishing the "religious districts." After being part of the Vicariate Apostolic of Central Oceania from 1836, and that of Melanesia from 1844, in 1889 New Britain joined the Solomon Islands as the Vicariate Apostolic of New Britain. Undeterred by catastrophes such as the murder of seven religious in the Baining Mountains in 1904, in 1912 Couppé founded the Daughters of the Immaculate Conception, a native sisterhood that had more than 70 members by the mid-1900s. In 1921 the region became part of the Trust Territory of New Guinea. Despite World War II, which resulted in a Japanese invasion and the deaths of 58 missioners, 23 of whom were murdered, growth caused the division of the Vicariate of Rabaul through the creation of Kavieng. The vicariate of Rabaul eventually advanced to the status of archdiocese.

[j. glazik/eds.]

New Caledonia. New Caledonia, 7,367 square miles in area, is a French overseas territory comprising the islands of New Caledonia and Île des Pins, the Loyalty Islands, and several other islet groups. Protestant evangelization in the region began in 1834, when Polynesian catechists came to the Loyalty Islands, and the London Missionary Society organized a mission two decades later. In 1843 Bishop Guillaume Douarre, together with four other Marist Fathers, founded a mission at Balade to evangelize the Melanesian natives. In 1847 the Vicariate Apostolic of New Caledonia was established, but its success was short-lived when Brother Blaise Marmoiton was slain and the other missioners expelled. France's annexation of the region in 1853 preserved the safety of the mission but gradually changed its character. The main island became a penal colony, on which 11,000 libérés remained as settlers. French governors promoted colonization and exploited the islands' extensive mineral resources, supplanting the indigenous tribes. When successive vicars apostolic expressed distress at the ill effects of these changes on native life, they met anticlerical opposition in government circles and bowed finally to the inevitable. Missions were reorganized to care for growing numbers of Europeans, while also tending Melanesian converts and some 11,000 immigrants from Vietnam, Indonesia, the Wallis Islands, and elsewhere. By the late 1800s political and religious tensions led Protestants to entrust their mission to the Société des Missions Évangéliques of Paris, although the London Missionary Society did not completely withdraw until 1921. In 1966 New Caledonia came under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Nouméa. By 2000 the region had a population of 201,816, over 60 percent Catholics. The region contained 28 parishes tended by nine secular and 35 religious priests. Other religious aided in the operation of the region's 34 primary and 22 secondary Catholic schools.

[j. e. bell/eds.]

Papua New Guinea. Sighted by the Portuguese in 1511, the island of New Guinea was discovered and claimed by Spain in 1527, and British explorers ventured into the eastern region in the 18th century. The Dutch annexed the western half in 1828, while the forbidding climate, dense forests, and difficult terrain in the east caused it to be left undeveloped until 1884, when England established a protectorate over Papua and Germany established the colony of Kaiser-Wilhelmsland in the northeast. New Guinea was included in the Vicariate Apostolic of Melanesia, created in 1844 and entrusted to the Marist Fathers, although slaughter and disease brought that mission to an end before it reached the island. The Milan Foreign Mission Society received the area in 1852 but suffered a similar fate. In 1881 the vicariate was entrusted to the Sacred Heart Missionaries, who founded a mission on Yule Island in 1885. Kaiser-Wilhelmsland was entrusted to the Divine Word Missionaries as a prefecture apostolic in 1896. In both regions, Catholics had been preceded by Protestant missions and both the German and British-Australian governments impeded normal development of the mission by creating exclusive territorial spheres of influence for the various Christian missionary groups. The missionaries laid out extensive coconut plantations and later added cocoa and coffee plantations that made the missions partially selfsupporting. In 1904 Britain ceded Papua to Australia; during World War I the Australians captured Kaiser Wilhelmsland and administered it first as a mandate territory of the League of Nations and then as a trust territory of the United Nations. During World War II more than 100 priests, brothers, and sisters were killed, and in the next few decades new vicariates apostolic were established in the region. In 1964 a regional major seminary was erected at Madang. Papua New Guinea achieved independence in 1975, although the region was the site of violence throughout the 1990s as the island of Bougainville fought unsuccessfully for independence. By 2000 the region had four archdiocese: Manang, Mount Hagen, Port Moresby, and Rabaul, under which were administered the region's 374 parishes. The population of 4,926,984 was estimated to be 30 percent Catholic. Many of Papua New Guinea's priests continued to be foreign by the end of the 1990s.

[r. m. wiltgen/eds.]

New Ireland. New Ireland, at about 2,800 square miles in area the largest island after New Britain, is located in the Bismarck Archipelago to the northeast of Papua New Guinea. Mariners from the Netherlands were the first to explore this section of Melanesia. The Marquis de Rays established the colony of Port Breton, to which were sent over 500 colonists. Ecclesiastically it pertained successively to the Vicariates Apostolic of Western Oceania (183644), Melanesia (184489), New Britain (18891922), and Rabaul (192257). From 1884 until the end of World War I the island was a German colony named New Mecklenburg. Wesleyan missioners arrived first, the first Catholic mission begun in 1902 by the Sacred Heart Missionaries. The mission survived World War I without serious damage, its members making significant scientific contributions to ethnology, botany, and linguistics. After 1921 the region became an Australian mandate, part of the trust Territory of New Guinea. World War II brought Japanese occupation and considerable destruction to the missions. In 1957 the Vicariate Apostolic of Kavieng was created, and entrusted to the Sacred Heart Missionaries. Kavieng was later created a diocese.

[j. glazik]

Solomon Islands. The Solomon Islands, which includes several islands and totals 16,120 square miles in land area, is located east of New Guinea. With the mountainous, forested interior impassable except by foot, travel occurred mostly along the coasts by canoe or ship. The Melanesians native to the region speak a wide variety of languages, pidgin English being the lingua franca. Mission work in the Solomons was begun by the Marist Fathers when Bishop Épalle landed on Santa Isabel and was immediately slain. Violence and disease cost the Marists two more bishops and five priests before they withdrew temporarily. In 1898 Bishop Vidal, SM, resurrected the southern mission with more success. Bishop Broyer, SM, inaugurated the apostolate in the northern islands in 1899, but missioners were so enfeebled by malaria that they won only 353 converts in the next decade. The Vicariate Apostolic of the Southern Solomon Islands, erected in 1912, included the islands of Guadalcanal, San Cristobal, and Malaita, while the Vicariate Apostolic of the Northern Solomon Islands, erected in 1930, included Bougainville. By 1942 Catholics numbered 27,000, but World War II brought devastation to these missions and caused missioners to be evacuated, interned, or killed by the Japanese. It also invigorated antiwhite, anti-Christian cults, which were active but localized two decades later, as the Catholic population grew. In 1959 the two apostolates were combined with the islands of Santa Isabel, New Georgia, and Choiseul as the Vicariate Apostolic of the Western Solomon Islands and entrusted to the Dominicans. This vicariate was later raised to the archdiocese of Honiara. The region achieved independence in 1978 and by 2000 had a population of 466,194, 19 percent of whom were Catholic. The 29 parishes among the islands were tended by 51 priests, half native. The Church operated 28 primary and eight secondary schools on the Solomon Islands, most of which were subsidized by the state in lieu of a state-run education system.

[j. e. bell/eds.]

Tonga. Located in Polynesia, the Kingdom of Tonga contains about 200 islands, with a total land area of 259 square miles. The first attempts at evangelization were made by Protestant missionaries, who entered the region in 1797. Tonga was the first island group to be visited by Bishop pompallier, who arrived in Vavau harbor in October 1837. Though at first well received, Pompallier was later refused permission to remain because of the influence of Wesleyan missionaries, established in Vavau since 1826. In 1842 Father Chevron and Brother Attale, members of the Marist Fathers, arrived at Nukualofa; they were allowed to land and reside with the pagans at Pea, although during the next few years the intermittent wars waged by Taufaahau in an effort to make himself king of Tonga created a dangerous environment for Catholics. Taufaahau, a Protestant, considered all Catholics enemies, and it was only the occasional intervention of French gunboats that obtained some toleration for Catholics. In 1842 Tonga became part of the Vicariate of Central Oceania; it became a separate vicariate in 1937. Tonga constituted the Vicariate Apostolic of Tonga and Niue Islands in 1957, and later broke with Niue to become in 1966 a diocese directly subject to the Holy See. Evangelization progressed steadily, and during the mid-20th century there was notable progress in Catholic education in the region. By 2000 the population of 102,320 was 16 percent Catholic, organized in 12 parishes. Diplomatic relations with the Holy See were established in 1994. At the beginning of the 21st century, Tonga was the last surviving monarchy in all of Oceania.

[s. j. bourke/eds.]

Tuvalu. Tuvalu, the former Ellice Islands, encompasses a group of islands situated near Kiribati consisting of nine coral atolls and covering 14 square miles. Made part of the Vicariate Apostolic of the Gilbert Islands in 1897, and civilly, the Gilbert and Ellice Island Colony of the Western Pacific High Commission of the British Commonwealth, Tuvalu eventually became independent due to the fact that its native population was Polynesian and their languages dissimilar to those of the Micronesian natives of the former Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati). Protestants were the first to arrive in the region followed by French missionaries of the Sacred Heart in 1888. World War II brought heavy losses, after which time the missions were staffed by religious from Australia. A mission sui juris was established at Funafuti in 1997, the year after Tuvalu established diplomatic relations with the Holy See. In 2000 the population of 10,840 was estimated to contain approximately 120 Catholics.


Vanuatu. Formerly the New Hebrides, Vanuatu is a rugged archipelago largely of volcanic origin located northeast of New Caledonia and west of the Fiji Islands, 5,700 square miles in land area. The natives are Melanesians. Protestant missioners entered the region in 1839, and evangelization came at the cost of many lives. Marist Fathers came from New Caledonia early in the 19th century, but concentrated Catholic efforts waited until 1887, when Bp. Hilarion Frayasse, SM, sent four missioners and several native helpers, with the urging and help of the French government. Progress was slow. In 1904 the Vicariate Apostolic of New Hebrides Islands was created, and by 1938 Catholics numbered 2,600; Protestants 10,000; and those following native faiths 30,000. The diocese of Port Vila was established at the capital city in 1966, and the region became politically independent in July of 1980. Protestant missionary groups remained mostly English-speaking and very influential through the 20th century. Catholic missions remained associated with the French language, which was taught in the region's Catholic-run schools. By 2000 the population of 190,000 was estimated to be 16 percent Catholic.

Wallis and Futuna Islands. Located 120 miles apart and with a total area of 100 square miles, the Territory of Wallis and Futuna Islands is located northeast of the Fiji Islands and west of Western Samoa. In 1836 Bp. Jean Pompallier sent the Marists Father Pierre Bataillon and Brother Joseph Luzy to Wallis and Father Pierre chanel with Brother Nizier to Futuna. Bataillon's forceful character, charity, and integrity greatly impressed the Polynesian king of Wallis, and by 1840 conversion efforts were proving successful on that island. Chanel met with less success on Futuna; he was slain in 1841 and became the first canonized martyr of the Pacific Islands mission. Wallis, which strove to create a native clergy, became entirely Catholic with the baptism of all its 2,700 inhabitants in 1842, as did Futuna in 1843. Under French control since 1842, the islands were a protectorate administrated by New Caledonia until 1961, when they became part of the French Overseas Territories. In 1935 the Vicariate Apostolic of the Wallis and Futuna Islands was created as part of the Vicariate Apostolic of Central Oceania, and entrusted to the Marist Fathers; it was raised to a diocese in 1966. By 2000 the population of 15,280 was predominately Catholic, and its priests native Polynesians.

[j. e. bell/eds.]

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