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Cardinal Piat: I Thought That As Bishop Of Port-Louis I Could Free My Brothers, But You Freed Me

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The traditional mass on 01 February on the occasion of the 188th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Mauritius took place in the church of Saint-Cœur-de-Marie in Petite-Rivière. In a homily with accents of testimony, Cardinal Piat spoke frankly and humbly about the path he has taken on the Creole question since the beginning of his episcopate. He recalled the support, friendship and questioning of his friends and Creole priests, notably Father Roger Cerveaux, who helped him to understand the Creole world.

Cardinal Piat
Cardinal Piat

“A language is not just a subject. It is something that touches us at the core. The Creole language deserves great respect. Se langaz mama sa’. That’s why when the Creole language was introduced in the church, ‘kan mo tane passaz labib an kreol mo tousse’,” he said.

He continued: “In 1996, I took responsibility for the diocese of Port Louis. I asked the laity to reflect. The first pastoral letter was on the ‘Creole malaise’. When I was elevated bishop, there were interviews in the press. In every interview there was the question: why was a Creole not made bishop of Port Louis? To understand the Creole question, you must understand the source of suffering, which is slavery. You must take the humiliation of a people seriously.

Saint-Coeur-de-Marie church in Petite-Rivière
Saint-Coeur-de-Marie church in Petite-Rivière

The Cardinal also spoke about the law promulgated in the 18th century under the French occupation, the Code Noir, which aimed to give a legal framework to the status of slaves. Under this iniquitous law, the slave, who had been at the forefront of the construction of the country from the start, was considered as “movable property that could be bought and sold” by the master. The Bishop of Port-Louis stated that he had taken time to recognise the horror of the practices associated with slavery. He also stated, and I quote, “that my ancestors also had slaves who would have been the perpetrators of such practices.

Mass at Saint-Cœur-de-Marie church

Returning to the abolition of slavery, Cardinal Piat stated that it is one of the most important moments in our country. “This celebration is on a par with the independence of our country.”

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