Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Diocese of Port Louis

From volume 12 of the work.


This diocese comprises the islands of Mauritius, Rodriguez, Chagos, and Diego Garcia. The Island of Mauritius was discovered by the Portuguese about 1507, but no settlement was formed. The Dutch who visited it in 1598 called it Mauritius in honour of the Stadtholder, Maurice of Nassau; they sent a colony there in 1644 but abandoned the island in 1710 or 1712. When the French took possession in 1715 they changed the name to Ile de France. It was long a French trading centre, and in 1789 became the seat of the French Government in the East. It was captured by the English in 1810, being formally ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1814. The French language and law have been preserved, but the ancient name was restored by the British Government. Port Louis, the capital, on the north-west coast, is the seat of the Catholic and Anglican bishoprics, and also the residence of the colonial governor, at present (1911) Sir Cavendish Boyle, K. C. M. G. The census of 1901 gave the total population of the island as 373,336, of whom 113,244 were Catholics, and that of the town of Port Louis as 52,740. There are Government schools and denominational schools aided by the State; Catholics constitute 64.71 per cent of the pupils.

In 1712 a prefecture Apostolic, including the islands of Madagascar, Réunion (then Bourbon), Mauritius etc., was established in the Indian Ocean and confided to the Congregation of St. Vincent de Paul. By a Brief of 6 October, 1740, Benedict XIV made the mission dependent on the Archdiocese of Paris. After the British occupation of Mauritius a vicariate Apostolic was established which, by a Decree of 21 January, 1819, was confided to Rt. Rev. Edward Bede Slater, Vicar Apostolic of the Cape of Good Hope and the Island of Madagascar; shortly afterwards the region of New Holland was annexed to the vicariate. In 1829 the Island of Madagascar was separated from the vicariate, and in 1834 the district of New Holland was suppressed. The Cape of Good Hope, the Island of St. Helena, and the Seychelles Islands were cut off from the mission of Mauritius in 1837, 1851, and 1852 respectively, the Diocese of Port Louis having been erected by a Decree of 1 December, 1847. The present bishop, Rt. Rev. James R. Bilsborrow, elected to the see on 13 Sept., 1910, succeeded the Rt. Rev. Peter Augustus O'Neill (born at Liverpool 22 Dec., 1841; made his profession as a Benedictine at Douai 10 Dec., 1861; was ordained 6 April, 1867; elevated to the episcopate 22 May, 1896, consecrated 29 June of that year). The present Catholic population of the diocese is 119,000; there are 52 priests, 27 churches, and 40 chapels. Religious orders include Jesuits and Fathers of the Holy Ghost, Loreto Sisters, Sisters of Charity of Perpetual Help, and the Daughters of Mary.

MISSIONES CATHOLICÆ; Annuaire pontif. (1911); KELLER, Madagascar, Mauritius, and other East African Islands (London).

Blanche M. Kelly.