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6 January 1840 - Father Philippe Viard to Father Jean-Marie Noailly, parish priest of la Guillotiére

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Bay of Islands, 6 January 1840
Bishop Pompallier has just once more secured rights to the esteem and affection of the New Zealanders. The complete pacification of a tribe who, having already taken up arms, were preparing to impose injustice through violence, pacification obtained solely by the influence of our holy Bishop's character and virtue. There you have one more feature to add to those which bring so much honour to our holy religion. Four islanders had pillaged a Frenchman's house and, adding assault to robbery, had tied his hands behind his back. All our fellow-countrymen living on the island saw themselves as personally outraged and let the chief know that, if the stolen things were not returned, they would themselves go and take them back by force. This last-mentioned man saw the justice of their complaint, and promised that things would be put right. But these good dispositions failed to stand against the wicked counsel of some ill-disposed people. A second reply informed the French that far from satisfying their demands, the tribe would drive them out of its territory, and that it had arms to oppose their threats. The Bishop, foreseeing to what extremes the situation could develop, resolved to prevent this misfortune. He embarked with two captains whose vessels were in the harbour, a representative of the injured party and a chief from the Bay of Islands. As they came near the tribe, they saw a crowd armed with axes and muskets. Bishop Pompallier's companions advised him to avert so imminent a danger by some sign of peace. Have no fear, he said to them, it will be enough for me to show myself and to let my pastoral cross be seen. And indeed, as soon as he neared the shore the natives uttered joyful cries and got ready to give him a fitting welcome. Hardly had he stepped on shore when all these savages, three hundred in number, crowded round him. They soon realised the wrong they had done. The tribe's chief, after a moment of silence and reflection, declared in the name of all of them that not only would the stolen items be given back, but an attractive piece of land would also be offered to the foreigner as reparation for the insult he had received. Now, he added, we seek his friendship. At the uttering of these words, joy was complete and universal. The natives dropped their weapons, shouting: "Epicopo[1] is among us; he makes us all happy."
Permit me to tell you again how much God shows his favour to this good people, and what confidence he gives them in his legitimate pastors. During the six months that the Bishop has been living in the Bay of Islands, not a single islander, either young or old, has died. While in the tribes which follow the Protestant ministers, mortality has been considerable. So the New Zealanders like to repeat that in their Bishop's religion, people do not die. The King of Kororareka's[2] daughter having fallen ill, the doctors, having exhausted all the resources of their art, declared that her life was at an end. Her grieving father told his people: "Go and get Epicopo: ask him to come and cure my daughter." The Bishop came. The young person who had lost consciousness regained enough strength and awareness to receive spiritual help and was immediately cured. I could also mention several children who recovered their health on receiving baptism. Soon, perhaps, the Bishop will tell you in more detail about the numerous prodigies with which the Divine Mercy deigns to favour our ministry. On the day before yesterday, Fathers Epalle and Petitjean left for Whangaroa, about thirty leagues [100 km] from the Bishop's house. Tomorrow Father Comte is going into the district of the Whirinaki tribe. A deputation of the most prominent members of this group came a few days ago, to wish our Bishop a happy new year and asking him for a missionary as a New Year's gift. In vain the prelate told them that he didn't yet have a priest who knew Maori. That doesn't matter, they answered, we will teach it to him! You have been making promises to us for quite a long time; if you do not want to keep them, we will not abandon you. The Bishop gave in to the urgency of their wishes, and now, there they are overflowing with joy.
While my confreres are setting out to evangelise the savage tribes, I am being edified by the sight of our chief shepherd's virtues. What wonderful gentleness he maintains in the midst of a people who make demands on him at any hour. These islanders are real children, whose inquisitiveness is equalled only by the holy prelate's patience. When they are in His Lordship's presence, they cannot separate themselves from him. Epicopo, I am hungry, they say, without further ado sitting at the table, and Epicopo feeds them with what he has, without his condescension being exhausted and his zeal ever tiring.


  1. Epicopo – a name given Bishop Pompallier by the Maori, transliteration of the Latin 'Epicopus' = Bishop.
  2. Kororareka

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