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The place where Marcellin Champagnat was born



A New Zealand archbishop at le Rosey

09/02/2009: France

When in 1836 the Pope confided to the Marist Fathers the evangelization of the new lands discovered in Oceania numerous missionaries left for the antipodes, the majority of them from the Lyons region. One of them was Father Philippe VIARD, a native of Lyons from the parish of St Nizier, born 11 October 1809. He found himself entrusted with other Marists with the evangelization of New Zealand around Father Pompallier who became the 1st Catholic bishop of the islands. Father Viard became his coadjutor.

But in 1850 New Zealand was divided into two dioceses with a new see at WELLINGTON and Father Viard was the 1st bishop of the new diocese. He died on 2 June 1872. Let us note that it was he who brought back the remains of St Peter Chanel (1803-1841) martyred on Futuna, first martyr of Oceania.

The Churches of Lyon and Wellington have wished to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of Father VIARD.
The first approaches began in July 2006. Cardinal Philippe BARBARIN, Archbishop of Lyon accompanied by about 20 persons paid a visit to Wellington. The delegation was impressed to discover how much the memory of the Marist apostle was still alive. Before returning to France, the cardinal invited his hosts to come to Lyon.

Responding to this invitation in the month of January 2009, Archbishop John DEW Archbishop of Wellington came to Lyons with a Marist Father, two SMSM Sisters and two young students very happy to discover the roots of the first apostles of their faith.
Already, at the WYD of Sydney the youth delegation from the dioceses of the Lyons region had been invited by Archbishop DEW to come and take up residence in his city.

A very detailed programme awaited them in France with celebrations in LYONS, PARIS, PONTOISE. One stop-off very much appreciated by Archbishop Mgr DEW was Marlhes.
On Saturday 24 January, he concelebrated the Eucharist in the chapel of Le Rosey with three French bishops :
Mgr Dominique LEBRUN, Bishop of St Etienne, Mgr Thierry BRAC de la PERRIERE, auxiliary Bishop of Lyons representing Cardinal Barbarin and Mgr Jean-Yves RIOCREUX, native of Marlhes, a long serving missionary in Oceania and currently Bishop of Pontoise.
A large group of faithful from the parish of St Marcellin en Pilat came to take part in the Eucharist.

This Mass was therefore celebrated in honour of Bishop VIARD, but also of
- Bishop Jean Baptiste EPALLE, born in 1808, and living at Le Rosey in the house which has since become the brothers’ community. Consecrated Vicar Apostolic of Melanesia with the title of bishop, the new prelate was killed by a hostile tribe in the Solomon Islands in 1845 : he was 33 years old.
- Bishop Jean Baptiste POMPALLIER (1802 – 1871) 1st bishop of New Zealand.

Archbishop DEW spoke with affection and gratitude of his studies with the Marist Brothers.
He recalled that they often prayed to Blessed Marcellin Champagnat and that he was truly happy today to be able to pray to him as Saint in his place of birth.

After the celebration, the brothers of the community invited all present to come to the Champagnat room under the chapel to have coffee and to become better acquainted.

Before leaving Le Rosey, the archbishop of Wellington confided to the correspondant of the local newspaper:
« In my youth I attended the schools of the Marist Brothers. The first missionaries included Marist Brothers from the south of the Loire.
Today it is very emotional for me and a profound joy to find myself in this place where Marcellin Champagnat was born. Being in Lyons for the bicentenary of the birth of Bishop Viard, Ist bishop of Wellington, it was impossible for me not to come to Marlhes .. »

Brother L. S

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