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Cyril Sieni

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(Better known as CYRIL OF BARCELONA).

Missionary bishop, b. in Catalonia, date of birth unknown; d. after 1799, place and exact date equally uncertain. He was a member of the Capuchin Order, and in 1772 was sent to New Orleans as vicar-general by the Bishop of Santiago, José de Echeverria, within whose jurisdiction Louisiana then was. Ecclesiastical and religious conditions were at that time very unsatisfactory. The mission was in charge of some Capuchins who were not always models of ecclesiastical virtue ; their superior, Dagobert, reputed to be ignorant and corrupt, had aroused against Cyril the opposition both of Unzaga, the civil governor, and the people. In the hope that a responsible episcopal authority would remove these obstacles, Father Cyril was made titular Bishop of Tricali, and auxiliary of Santiago. His delegated ecclesiastical authority extended over the seventeen parishes and twenty-one priests found in the territory now included in the States of Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and those bordering on the western bank of the Mississippi as far as the Missouri. In 1772 he sent to St. Louis, then a hamlet of about two hundred inhabitants, its second pastor, Father Valentine. He also sent resident pastors (1781) to Pensacola and St. Augustine in Florida. During his administration, several Irish clergymen were sent to Bishop Sieni by Charles III of Spain, to minister to the religious needs of the English-speaking Catholics ; to each of them the king assigned an annual salary of 350 dollars, besides paying their passage.

In 1786 Sieni issued a pastoral letter concerning the proper observance of Sunday as a day of rest and prayer. In 1788 New Orleans was swept by a great conflagration, on which occasion the brick church of the city perished (it was rebuilt in 1794). In spite of his zeal, religion made little progress: on the one hand he failed to restore ecclesiastical discipline, and on the other displeased both Charles III and Bishop Trespalacios of Havana, to whose care the mission was committed since 1787. Finally a royal order (1793) banished him to his native province. In 1799 he was still in Havana on his way to Spain. Irreligious writers of his own day, followed by some modern historians, depict him in harsh colours. He probably committed more than one administrative error, but he was esteemed a holy and simple-minded ecclesiastic.

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