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Diocese of Martinique
(SANCTI PETRI ET ARCIS GALLICAÆ)
Diocese; 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 1762-1783, and was again occupied by them in 1792, 1802, 1809, 1815 and again became French territory in 1818. The name Martinique comes from the Carib word Madinima. On Good Friday, 1640, Pè Bouton and Hempteau, Jesuits set out for Martinique, where they founded the celebrated Jesuit mission. Pè Ceubergeon and Gueimu, Jesuits were slain there in 1654 by the revolting Caribs. The "Mémoire concernant la Mission des Pè de la Compagnie de Jé dans les iles franç de l'Amerique" addressed in 1707 by Pè Combaid to Pè Tambourini, General of the Jesuits, and published in 1907 by Pè Rochemonteix, contains moving details concerning the catechetical instructions of the Negro slaves by the Jesuits. In 1753 Pè 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. Pè Rochemonteix has proved that Pè Lavalette acted thus without the knowledge even of his fellow missionaries of Martinique or his superiors in 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 proof, and that the superiors were not certain until 1762, after the investigation of Pè de la Marche, when Pè 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 27 Sept. 1850, and by a law of 20 July, and by a decree of 18 December, 1850. At first the see was fixed at Fort de France, was transferred to St. Pierre on 12 Sept., 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 Dé . Bishop Fava (1872-1879, founded in 1872, a religious weekly bulletin, which later became the daily "Le Bien Public". Martinique was cruelly tried 8 May, 1902, by the eruption of Mt. Pelée, 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 8 Aug 1902, and the earthquake 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 Notre Dame de la Dé had its origin in the diocese. The present bishop, Mgr de Cormont, was born at Paris, France, 29 March, 1847. Chosen as bishop 14 December, 1899, in succession to Msgr. Carmené, who resigned.
AUBE, La Martinique (Paris 1882); ROCHEMONTEIX, Antoine Lavalettea à la Martinique (Paris 1907); HESS, La Catastrophe de la Martinique Notes d'un reporter(Paris 1902); LACROIX, La Montagne Pelée et ses eruptions (Paris 1904); L'episcopal franç aux xix siècle (Paris 1907), 339-344.