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19 July, 1847 – Bishop Pierre Bataillon to Fr Etienne Séon, Wallis

Translated by Mary Williamson, October 2010

Based on the document sent, APM OC 148.1

Sheaf of four written pages.

To Reverend Father Séon.
My Reverend Father,
It gave me great pleasure to receive your letter dated October 1845; it reached me by way of the Arche d’Alliance in October of the following year. I must thank you for your good wishes and for the great interest that you have been kind enough to express in us and in our fledgling missions. The vocation that you practice in France is neither less important nor less difficult than the one we undertake here, unworthy as we may be, here in the middle of Oceania. No matter how far away we are from you, we never tire of taking a lively interest in your work. We never cease to hope that the Good Lord will bless this work, so that through you and all the committed clergy in France He will see fit to reignite the flame of the Faith in our beloved country. Perhaps, at least, He will not allow the remaining embers to die out in France, as I understand from almost all the letters I receive from France that evil continues to increase and goodness to decrease.
I receive contrary reports from almost all the other corners of the world. I understand that in England conversions are steadily increasing and that many Catholic churches are being built in London and all over the kingdom; I hear that new Christian activity is rising out of the remnants of our churches in Africa and is flourishing. In the Orient the Mohammadans seem to be fading away and everywhere the Roman Catholic Church is re-establishing itself; it is said that China is ending its persecutions and we have reason to hope that religion is going to make rapid progress there. In Oceania we are ourselves witness to the blessings that God sees fit to extend, through our feeble efforts; if the kingdom of our Saviour is not yet established in all of our islands, at least his Holy Name is known almost everywhere. People reverting from paganism are astonished and somewhat ashamed of their former folly; they do not know how to express their gratitude for the remarkable happiness they experience in getting to know their Creator and Saviour.
Could it be only in our Fatherland that people are bewildered and somewhat ashamed of having known and served the true God, then set aside his glory and his civilisation to revert to paganism? … No, we certainly hope that France will not lose the true Faith. It will not be said that she has disseminated it to the entire world and then lost it herself; God will save her for the sake of her faithful servants who he will still find there in great numbers and who never cease to beg His mercy for our communal Fatherland. We are led to believe, on the contrary, that a happier time is coming, where those elements which have drifted apart will come together again and those who have been led astray will reunite to search out the core, the unity, the true Catholic Church. –
As for our central missions, they have certainly multiplied, but have not yet made much progress. – Apart from our missions in Tonga, Fiji and New Caledonia, which you know about, we have also established ourselves, during the last year, on the two main islands of Samoa and we have recently been able to send two missionaries to Rotuma, but we have no news of them. The two islands of Samoa, where we have just established missions, each have a population of thirty to forty thousand souls. These people are pleasant and easy-going, but it is a pity that there, as elsewhere, the Protestants have preceded us; they have easily won over these people and have worked so diligently, for several years, to prejudice and antagonise them against the pope (the papists) that with the arrival of Fathers Roudaire and Violette, who were the first to be sent there, these poor people ran away into the bush, for fear of being bewitched or perhaps even eaten by these fearsome popes. Our missionaries have nevertheless been able to establish themselves and we can already claim several hundred adherents for the Catholic Church; we have built one church there and are in the process of building another. I say “we”, as I am writing to you from the islands of Samoa. The Arche d’Alliance brought me here, from here she went back to Sydney and she will return from Sydney to pick me up and take me to Wallis and from there to all the other missions.
Whilst waiting, I am travelling round the islands of Samoa to negate as much as possible, the ugly impression these people have of us, having been made to believe that we are demons or cannibals. I try to subtly sow seeds and win souls, make progress on the missions already established here and found some others.
As for our Christian converts on Wallis and Futuna, all goes reasonably well with them thanks be to God. They maintain the same enthusiasm and the some regular attendance at the Sacraments. As far as these things are concerned, they are perfectly amenable to our wishes. If, on a feast day, we make it clear to them that they should attend the sacraments, they will all come, without exception. They cannot understand that one can be a Christian and member of the church and yet not necessarily submit to the wishes of the pastors, concerning the way they conduct themselves and the duties they should fulfil towards God the Creator to whom they have been introduced; to be a Christian and fulfil one’s duties, to be a member of the church and obey all that is expected of them, the two are exactly the same to them. They are certainly not repulsed by the idea of confession; it is a need for them and consequently a pleasure to unburden the heart and soothe the conscience. As soon as the least thing upsets them, they cannot be at peace till they have confessed, especially when there has been a quarrel between them and they have exchanged harsh words. We do not have to wait for them seek us out wherever we might be. It will be over to the first of the antagonists to recount his version of events to us; it is always very easy for us to reconcile them; it is even easy to persuade the person who is not in the wrong to go and find his adversary and be the first to apologise.
Please pray for us, my Reverend Father and have the people in your missions pray that our dear converts maintain their friendly disposition. Pray also and have others pray for the conversion of the many pagans and heretics who we have to win over to Christianity in our central curacy – and rest assured that as far as we are concerned we will certainly not forget you and will always be unified with you in prayer and in holy sacrifice,
Your humble and obedient servant,
Pierre Bataillon, Vicar apostolic.
[8] [in the margin, at an angle]
On Wallis, on my return from Samoa, 19th July, 1847.

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