Charles Lavigerie

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Charles Lavigerie in 1882
Coat of arms of Charles-Martial Allemand-Lavigerie
Tombeau du cardinal Lavigerie

Charles Martial Allemand Lavigerie, M. Afr. (31 October 1825 – 26 November 1892) was a French Catholic cardinal, Archbishop of Carthage and Algiers and Primate of Africa. He also founded the White Fathers. He crusaded against the slave trade, and he founded the order of priests called the White Fathers, so named for their white cassocks and red fezzes. He also established similar orders of brothers and nuns. He sent his missionaries to the Sahara, Sudan, Tunisia, and Tripolitania. His efforts were supported by the Pope, the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and Leopold II of Belgium.


  • Mission work in Algeria is far from being the chief, still less it is the exclusive object of your ambition. The end and aim of our Apostolate is the evangelisation of Africa, of the whole of Africa, of that almost impenetrable interior in whose dark depths are the last hiding places of a most brutal barbarism, where cannibalism still prevails, and slavery in its most degrading forms. To this work you have consecrated yourselves by solemn vow and promise. There is not a single spot along the shores washed by the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean, where we do not find the footsteps of the messengers of God's mercy to the poor degraded sons of Cham. But although in all the countries bordering the Ocean we find numerous bodies of Apostolic Missionaries engaged in spreading the light of the Gospel, far different is it with the interior of the Dark Continent, which has hitherto seemed impossible of access. From time to time individual travellers have tried to penetrate into the depths of this mysterious land, but nearly all have perished in the attempt to. lift the veil which enshrouds those unknown regions.
  • In view of our still bleeding past, and of our ever-threatening future, union is our great need. Union is also, let me tell you, the foremost wish of the Church and of all its pastors of every degree. The Church does not ask us to either give up the remembrance of past glories or the sentiments of fidelity and gratitude that are an honour to every man. But when the will of a people has been definitely expressed, when the form of government, as Leo XIII recently stated, is in no way contrary to the principles on which alone civilized and Christian nations can exist, when the unreserved acceptance of this form of government is necessary to preserve a people from danger, the time has come to declare the ordeal over, to end our dissensions, and to sacrifice all that conscience and honour allow us to sacrifice for the safety of our country. Without this patriotic acceptance of the situation nothing can avail either to maintain peace and order, to save the world from the social danger, or to preserve even the religion of which we are the ministers. It would be folly to attempt to support the columns of an edifice without going inside it, if only to prevent those who would destroy everything from accomplishing their mad design. It would be still greater folly to attack the building from without, as some are even now doing, in spite of recent scandals: disclosing our ambitions and hatreds to observant enemies, and instilling into the heart of France the discouragement that precedes the final catastrophe.

Quotes about Charles Lavigerie

  • The Catholic champion for the liberation of the slaves was the French Cardinal Lavigerie, Archbishop of Carthage and Algiers. In 1868 he had founded the Congregation of the White Fathers, with the mission to put an end to slavery in a hitherto inaccessible area of ​​Africa. That unknown area stretched from the southern border of the Sudan to the English colonies of South Africa in its full breadth. The first caravan to reach Central Africa left Marseilles in 1868, the travel experiences were such that Lavigerie had his people accompanied by armed old Zouaves, they had defended the Papal States in Italy against the nationalist armies of Garibaldi who fought for the unification for Italy, the Papal troops lost the fight and the Zouaves, including many Dutch who had become stateless returned home, therefore the first Dutch to enter the African interior were 3 Zouaves.
  • Lavigerie was a wonderfully practical man, and he was also a historian at the Sorbonne in France, where he had that vision of reconstructing the interior of Africa, as it had been done in Europe in the Middle Ages by a kind of kingdom, but with settlements of freed slaves, most of the population in East Africa was really helpless, Lavigerie therefore wanted the missionaries to build settlements and missions, for which he sent brothers, former Zouaves, and fathers, who then had to learn the language, and also had to learn how to build, and when those slaves were freed by the various expeditions that were sent out, they were sent to the missions. The idea behind this was very practical, and so was the idea that the Africans would become this new Christian people, like how Clovis was converted, and then gradually France, on that myth he built everything.
  • In terms of rebuilding, and slowly rebuilding the country, that's what we're in the middle of right now, I don't think we can imagine what slavery has done to the people here, that goes very deep, these things take a very long time even the opposition to colonialism has traces of it. Here it was quite late, 1830, but a little further west, slavery lasted 3 to 4 centuries, 40 to 60 million people are estimated, were moved from here, to America, that's no small thing, you would say that is an African holocaust.

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