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The founding of the Roman Catholic Church in Oceania : 1825 to 1850

CollectionsANU Press (1965- Present)
Title: The founding of the Roman Catholic Church in Oceania : 1825 to 1850
Author(s): Wiltgen, Ralph M.
Date published: 1979
Publisher: Canberra, ACT : Australian National University Press
The Founding of the Roman Catholic Church in Oceania 1825-50 is the first detailed and documentary history of the seminal period of Roman Catholic missionary activity in Oceania. Before 1825 there had been sporadic missionary efforts but from the founding of the Prefecture Apostolic of the Sandwich Islands in 1825 there was continued development in Australia, New Zealand, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. This lively and dramatic narrative is told largely through the words of the participants in the events, from diaries, documents and letters, and ranges from the politics of the Vatican to sufferings on outpost islands. The focus of attention shifts from Rome to Paris, Valparaiso, Sydney, Honiara, Auckland and many other places, in a study of men and institutions, faith and emotion, rivalries and confusions, murder and annexation, God and mammon. The book{u2019}s great strength is the authority of the material on which it is based, archival resources from the Vatican and seven religious orders, much of it old handwritten documents in many languages, nowhere published. From these complex records and with linguistic skills Ralph Wiltgen has compiled a masterly account with the absorbing interest of a detective story. He works on many levels, juggling the pieces so that we have a wide view of what is happening everywhere and how the moves are interrelated. Powerful and ambitious men press their causes in Rome, their plans obstructed by vast distances, slow-moving sailing vessels, meagre funds, petty jealousies, limited personnel, and even death. In the lands remote from Europe the missionaries found themselves in a tropical climate, wrestling with strange tongues and confronted with puzzling cultures. Rivalries with Protestants, relations with governments, and the activities of idealistic businessmen were other aspects of the often slow and always painful progress in Oceania. The illustrations include maps drawn according to specifications found by the author in contemporary reports, and facsimiles of maps and documents which recapture the details of historic decisions. The whole is a book of particular interest to the peoples of Oceania and to a wider reading public caught up with the magic of the South Seas.


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