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Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, also Cathédrale de Nôtre Dame de la Paix, located at 1184 Bishop Street in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, is the oldest Roman Catholic cathedral in continuous use in the United States. A former French mission, the cathedral is revered as the site where Father Damien, beatified in 1995 by Pope John Paul II, was ordained to the presbyterate.
Motherchurch of the Diocese of Honolulu, it is located in downtown Honolulu on the historic Fort Street Mall. It was officially dedicated on August 15, 1843. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace is designated as a National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.
Edict of Toleration
The cathedral sits on a site donated by Kamehameha III on behalf of the royal government to the missionaries of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, also called the Picpus Fathers who arrived on the brig La Comète in Honolulu from Bordeaux, France on July 7, 1827. The donation was one of a step towards healing a rift created in April 2, 1831 when the chiefs who had earlier met in Ka`awaloa returned to Honolulu to announce the expulsion of the two remaining presbyters of the Picpus Fathers, Fathers Alexis Bachelot (a French subject), and Patrick Short (a British subject). It required them to leave within three months on pain of property seizure and imprisonment. As both priests intended to stay, the chiefs then fitted out one of their own vessels, the brig Waverly in which to forcibly convey the Picpus Fathers to California. Both Fathers Bachelot and Short were placed on board and the vessel sailed from Honolulu on December 24, 1831. They landed at San Pedro near Los Angeles and went to Mission San Gabriel. They worked in the various California Missions until 1837. Meanwhile, Native Hawaiians who converted to Catholicism were persecuted and imprisoned.
The Congregational denomination became the preferred faith tradition in the islands. The expulsion of both presbyters, subjects of France and Great Britain, had several consequences, one of which was a visit in summer of 1832 by Commodore Downes of the U.S. Frigate Potomac who expressed to the King his disapproval of the policy to expel Catholic priests and punish native converts to Catholicism. Persecution briefly ceased in September 1832.
In 1833, the Vatican Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith issued a decree creating the Vicariate Apostolic of Eastern Oceania committed to the care of the Picpus Fathers under the episcopate of Msgr. Rouchouze. The Vicariate was divided at the equator with the northern portion committed to the care of Father Bachelot as Prefect Apostolic of the Sandwich Islands. The Prefect Apostolic, then in residence in Valparaiso, Chile, decided to send Father Arsenius Walsh, ss.cc., a British subject, to Honolulu. Father Walsh arrived in Honolulu on September 30, 1836. While the chiefs ordered him to depart immediately, the timely arrival of the French war ship La Bonite created a situation favorable to his staying on. Afterwards, a series of visits from French, British and American warships resulted in the chiefs being signatory to treaties and conventions negotiated on behalf of the foreign nationals domiciled in Hawai`i.
In November of 1837, Fathers Maigret and Murphy (whose recent ordination had been concealed from the chiefs) arrived in Honolulu on the orders of Msgr. Rouchouze. Father Maigret was denied entry; "Messr." Short was not. On December 13, 1837, at Lahaina, Kamehameha III issued an ordinance rejecting the Catholic religion. Word of this ordinance as well as Father Maigret's rejection reached Paris. The French government commissioned Captain Cyrille-Pierre-Théodore Laplace of the frigate Artemise to "destroy the malevolent impression which you find established to the detriment of the French name; to rectify the erroneous opinion which has been created as to the power of France; and to make it well understood that it would be to the advantage of the chiefs of those islands of the Ocean to conduct themselves in such a manner as not to incur the wrath of France. You will exact, if necessary with all the force that is yours to use, complete reparation for the wrongs which have been committed, and you will not quit those places until you have left in all minds a solid and lasting impression." On July 10, 1839, the French frigate Artemise sailed into Honolulu Harbor and issued a manifesto for the freedom of Catholics to worship in Hawai‘i. Kamehameha III subsequently issued an Edict of Toleration effectively dismantling the ban on Catholicism and giving permission to the Picpus Fathers to establish its community and beliefs in the islands.
With the return of the missionaries, the Picpus Fathers were charged by the Holy See to administer the newly created Vicariate Apostolic of the Sandwich Islands led by Msgr. Louis D. Maigret, SS.CC., consecrated in 1847 in Valparaiso, Chile, as Titular Bishop of Arathia and the first Vicar Apostolic of the Sandwich Islands. In 1848, the Holy See changed the named of the Vicariate from Sandwich Islands to Hawaiian Islands. Coral stone blocks were transported from the shores of Ala Moana and Kaka‘ako to build the cathedral. When completed, the interior was furnished with a simple wooden altar and lauhala-leaf matted floors. A domed bell tower, the first of its kind in Hawai‘i, was installed. In 1866, the dome bell tower became a wooden spire. The spire was transformed into a concrete tower in 1917 while plaster and white-painted concrete covered the walls.
Bishop Louis Maigret, ss.cc. eventually raised the roof, paneled the ceilings with bronze ornaments, built a gallery overlooking the nave, installed a pipe organ, and fitted stained-glass windows during his tenure. French marble and gilded statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her parents Saint Joachim and Saint Anne formed an impressive triptych high above the specially crafted marble altar. The triptych and altar remain today. By the time Bishop Maigret ended his term, the rugged coral church was transformed into an impressive European-style cathedral.
Statue of Our Lady of Peace
On Christmas Eve of 1893, Bishop Gulstan Ropert, ss.cc. dedicated a bronze statue of Our Lady of Peace. It was hoisted onto a pedestal with plaques on four sides engraved in English, French, Portuguese and Hawaiian with the words, In memory of the first Roman Catholic Church, Our Lady of Peace 1827-1893. The statue was a recreation of a sixteenth century wooden carving. The wooden carving is still venerated in the Picpus Convent in Paris.
Several bishops of Honolulu were discontent with the way the cathedral was built. As a result they commissioned a series of renovations. Bishop Libert H. Boeynames, ss.cc. dreamed of a Gothic cathedral sitting in the middle of Fort Street Mall. In 1910, he constructed an elaborate porch over the cathedral entrance. Tranforming the entire cathedral facade to look Gothic proved too costly. Bishop Stephen Alencastre, ss.cc. stripped the Gothic porch and instead added doric columns. Smaller columns were installed in the interior underneath the gallery. Bishop Alencastre oversaw the tiling of the cathedral roof in Spanish terra cotta. He completed his renovations in time for the 1927 centennial anniversary of the arrival of the first Catholic missionaries. For the celebration, Italy gifted to the cathedral a white marble altar with statues of the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph.
Bishop James Joseph Sweeney, the first Bishop of the newly formed diocese, made significant changes to the interior of the cathedral. In 1956, he stripped the wooden cross from the sanctuary and replaced it with an elaborately carved marble crucifix. The same marble was used in the construction of new communion rails. In 1967, the Second Vatican Council mandated a removal of the communion rails. An elaborately carved marble altar was installed to face the congregation for the first time. Cathedral Rector Monsignor Charles Kekumano adorned the walls with precious koa wood wainscot during his tenure. He also installed koa wood doors to give the church a stylish, native Hawaiian flair.
In 1992, Bishop Joseph Anthony Ferrario proposed the restoration of the cathedral and commissioned studies for renovations enhancing the beauty of the worship space. Bishop Maigret's ceiling ornaments were treated and cleaned to show their original brilliance. Stained glass windows and clerestory statues were packed and sent away to be professionally restored and preserved by Cathedral Rector Monsignor Terrence Watanabe and his successor, Father Nathan Mamo. Sanctuaries were lowered to create new worship spaces and a new Eucharistic devotional area was created. In the late 1990s, under the leadership of Bishop Francis Xavier Dilorenzo, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace was scrutinized by restorers and architects to create a plan for total renovation. The total cost of the plan added up to USD $5 million. It is currently raising funds to complete Bishop Dilorenzo's renovation plans.
Bishop of Honolulu
Prior to the establishment of the Apostolic Vicariate of the Sandwich Islands, the Vatican created a Prefecture Apostolic of the Sandwich Islands in 1827. In 1840, the Prefecture Apostolic was included as an integral part of the Vicariate Apostolic of Oriental Oceania (created in 1833 and led by Msgr. Etienne Jerome Rouchouze). Since its inception, Father Alexis Bachelot, ss.cc., assumed the title of Prefect Apostolic. Father Bachelot died at sea in 1838 and was buried at Naha in the Marshall Islands. In 1840, Msgr. Rouchouze arrived in Honolulu accompanied by three other priests, one of whom, Father Louis Maigret, was refused landing in Honolulu in 1837. On July 9, 1840, ground was broken for the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace. On the same day, 280 catechumens received baptism and confirmation. In January 1841, Bishop Rouchouze returned to France in search of laborers. He was successful in obtaining a company of 24 (priests and sisters) of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts. They left France in 1841 with a cargo of supplies on the schooner Marie-Joseph owned by the mission; but unfortunately, the vessel was lost with all on board in 1843. On August 15, 1843, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace was solemnly dedicated. At the same time, the Holy See divided the Vicariate Apostolic of Oriental Oceania into three Vicariates Apostolic: Tahiti; the Marquesas; and the Hawaiian Islands (elevated from a Prefecture Apostolic). In 1848, the Vatican changed the name of the see from the Apostolic Vicariate of the Sandwich Islands to that of the Hawaiian Islands. All bishops previous to 1940 were Picpus Fathers in titular sees who served as Vicars Apostolic. Following the death of Bishop Stephen Alencastre in 1940, the Holy See elevated the Vicariate Apostolic of Honolulu to the dignity of a diocese (suffragan to the metropolitan see of San Francisco) and appointed Father James Joseph Sweeney of the metropolitan archdiocese of San Francisco as the first bishop. Although the Bishop of Honolulu is the pastor of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, his role in governing the see of Honolulu effectively limits his pastoral duties to the Cathedral community; as such, the Bishop appoints a Rector to minister to the pastoral needs of the Cathedral community. Four residential bishops have administered the diocese since its creation in 1941.
Co-Cathedral of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus
Based on contemporary cathedral standards, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace is smaller than most. With the vast growth of the local Catholic population in Hawai‘i, officials of the Diocese of Honolulu advised the consecration of a co-cathedral to also serve as a principal church. The Co-Cathedral of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus is located at 712 North School Street, west of downtown Honolulu. The original church was established in 1931 and was renovated in 1984. That same year, it was elevated to a co-cathedral and houses the bishop's second cathedra or seat (from which he preaches, teaches, sanctifies and governs).
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