FREE Catholic Classes
French cardinal, b. at Huire near Bayonne, 13 Oct., 1825; d. at Algiers, 27 Nov., 1892. He studied at the diocesan seminary of Larressore, then went to St. Nicolas-du-Chardonnet in Paris, and finally to St. Sulpice. Ordained on 2 June, 1849, he devoted the first year of his priesthood to higher studies at the newly founded Ecole des Carmes, taking at the Sorbonne the doctorates of letters (1850), and of theology (1853), to which he added later the Roman doctorates of civil and canon law. Appointed chaplain of Sainte-Geneviève in 1853, associate professor of church history at the Sorbonne in 1854, and titular of the chair in 1857, Lavigerie did not confine his activity to his chaplaincy or chair, but took a leading part in the organization of the students' cercles catholiques, and of l'œuvre des écoles d'Orient. As director of the latter he collected large sums for the benefit of the Oriental Christians persecuted by the Druses, and even went to Syria to superintend personally the distribution of the funds (1860). His brilliant services were rewarded by rapid promotion, first in 1861 to the Roman Rota, and two years later to the See of Nancy. From the beginning of his episcopate he displayed that genius of organization which is the characteristic of his life. The foundation of colleges at Vic, Blamont, and Lunéville; the establishment at Nancy of a higher institute for clerics and of a Maison d'étudiants for law students; the organization of the episcopal curia; the publication of the "Recueil des Ordonnances épiscopales statuts et règlements du diocèse de Nancy", were but the first fruits of a promising episcopate, when he was transferred to Algiers on 27 March, 1867.
As Archbishop of Algiers he promptly reversed the policy of neutrality towards the Moslems imposed upon his predecessors by the French authorities, and inaugurated a strong movement of assimilation and conversion. With the help of the White Fathers and of the White Sisters, whom he founded for the purpose, he established and maintained at great cost orphan asylums, industrial schools, hospitals, and agricultural settlements, wherein the Arabs could be brought under the influence of the Gospel. Appointed as early as 1868 Apostolic Delegate of Western Sahara and the Sudan, he began in 1874 the work of southward expansion which was to bring his heroic missionaries into the very heart of the Dark Continent, and result in the erection of five vicariates Apostolic in Equatorial Africa. To those many burdens -- made heavier by the consequences (felt even in Algeria) of the Franco-Prussian war, the withdrawal of government financial support, and the threatened extension to the African colonies of anti-religious legislation passed in France -- Lavigerie added other cares: the administration of the Diocese of Constantina, 1871; the foundation at St. Anne of Jerusalem of a clerical seminary for the Oriental missions, 1878, and, after the occupation of Tunis by France, the government of that vicariate. Cardinal in 1881, he became the first primate of the newly restored See of Carthage in 1884, retaining meanwhile the See of Algiers. "I shall not seek one day's rest" was the remark of Lavigerie when he landed on African soil. He carried out that promise to the letter. While Notre-Dame d'Afrique at Algiers, the Basilica of St. Louis at Carthage, and the Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul at Tunis will stand as monuments of his prodigious activity in Africa, his labours ranged far beyond the vast territories placed under his jurisdiction. Klein (Le Cardinal Lavigerie, p. 268) describes minutely the many ways in which he served the best interests of France in, and out of, Africa. He will, however, be best remembered by the leading rôle he played in furthering the policy of Leo XIII , with regard to French Catholics, and in promoting the anti-slavery movement.
Tinctured with Gallicanism through his early association with the Sorbonne, Lavigerie modified his views during his stay at Rome, and his attitude at the Vatican Council is fully expressed by the promise he made his clergy "to be with Peter". When Leo XIII, by his Encyclicals "Nobilissima Gallorum gens" of 8 Feb., 1884, and "Sapientiæ æternæ" of 3 Feb., 1890, directed the French Catholics to rally to the Republic, he generously put aside other political affiliations and again "was with Peter". A great sensation was created when at Algiers, on 12 Nov., 1890, he proclaimed before a vast assemblage of French officials the obligation for French Catholics of sincerly adhering to the republican form of government. The famous "toast d'Alger" was the object of harsh criticism and even vituperation from the monarchist element. With his usual vehemence Cardinal Lavigerie answered by his "Lettre à un catholique", in which he not only impugned the pretenders -- the Comte de Chambord, the Comte de Paris, and Prince Napoléon -- but even hinted that monarchy was an outgrown institution. In this he may have gone too far, but in the main point it was proved later by Cardinal Rampolla's letter of 28 November, 1890, and Pope Leo's Encyclical "Inter innumeras" of 16 Feb., 1892, that Lavigerie had been the self-sacrificing spokesman of the pope.
The suppression of slavery had been the subject of Lavigerie's first pastoral letter at Algiers. When Leo XIII in his Encyclical to the bishops of Brazil (5 May, 1888) appealed to the world in behalf of the slaves, the Primate of Carthage was the first to respond. In spite of age and infirmities he visited the capitals of Europe, teling of the horrors of African slavery and urging the formation of anti-slavery societies. The international "Conférence" of Brussels, 1890, practically adopted Lavigerie's suggestions as to the best means of achieving the desired abolition, and the "Congrés de Paris ", called the same year by the cardinal himself, showed great enthusiasm and verified Lavigerie's saying: "pour sauver l'Afrique intérieure, il faut soulever la colère du monde."
After the "toast d'Alger" and the "Congrès de Paris ", Lavigerie, broken in health, retired to Algiers. His last two years were saddened by the often unjust criticism of his cherished project -- the "frères pionniers du Sahara" -- the death of many of his missionaries, and, above all, the passing of Uganda under the control of the sectarian Imperial East-African Company. He died at Algiers as preparations were being made for the twenty-fifth anniversary of his African episcopate. The daily press throughout the world eulogized him, who had forbidden all eulogies at his funeral, and the "Moniteur de Rome" rightly summarized his life by saying that, in a few years of incredible activity, he had laid out work for generations. An able scholar and an orator of the first order, Lavigerie was also a writer. Besides some scholastic productions destined for his pupils at the Ecole des Carmes (1848), we have from his pen a doctorate thesis: "Essai sur l'école chrétienne d'Edesse" (Paris, 1850); several contributions to the "Bibliothèque pieuse et instructive à l'usage de la jeunesse chrétienne" (Paris, 1853); "Exposé des erreurs doctrinales du Jansénisme" (Paris, 1858), an abridgment of his lessons at the Sorbonne; "Decreta concilii provincialis Algeriensis in Africa" (1873); a large number of discourses, pamphlets, or reports, some of which were embodied in the two volumes of his "Œuvres choises" (Paris, 1884); "Documents pour la fondation de l'œuvre antiesclavagiste" (St. Cloud, 1889), etc.