The latest book to be published on the life of Auckland’s first bishop, Jean Baptiste Francois Pompallier, is a love story between Maori, the bishop and the Catholic Church.
The book, entitled Bishop Pompallier — First Catholic Bishop of New Zealand, was written in “a very positive angle, something joyful,” said author Diane Taylor at the launch of her book at Pompallier Diocesan Centre on April 15.
Mrs Taylor said the book came out of the thesis she submitted for her Master of Philosophy in history degree at Massey University. She is a specialist in Church history.
“This was a man loved through the generations. The love that was generated in 1838 was sustained right through to the present day,” she said.
She started the book with the events that brought Bishop Pompallier’s body home from France. Pa Henare Tate, Pa Anthony Brown and Robert Newson, who were involved in the hikoi that brought Bishop Pompallier home, were at the book launch.
Although there were some who claimed Bishop Pompallier was a polarising figure, Mrs Taylor said she found no evidence to support such a claim.
“I don’t accept that criticism of him because it is a matter of opinion and not of fact. It’s not substantiated from the research I did. I’m not saying that people deliberately mislead. It’s not substantiated by the facts that I’ve uncovered in all the archives,” she said.
Mrs Taylor accepted that there may have been some who had been “disaffected, because it was hard times”.
“There was talk about him not being good with money. But who would be good with money when you are struggling?” she asked.
Mrs Taylor explained that Bishop Pompallier was relying on the funds sent by the Society for the Propagation of Faith founded by venerable Pauline Jaricot. “He was relying on her money to keep going. There were great difficulties, as you can appreciate with money at the time,”
Mrs Taylor said the missionary society was being asked for funds from all directions. “She [Pauline] couldn’t sustain help by sending [money] here,” she explained. “Pompallier was facing bankruptcy here.”
Mrs Taylor said Bishop Pompallier earned the love of Maori by respecting them. He promised to come back and send priests, and he did.
The cover of the book was a painting of Bishop Pompallier by artist Claire Dargaville, whose ancestors were married by him.
The painting was presented to Pa Tate, who will bring it to Motuti to the Pompallier Hokianga Trust.
Pa Tate said hikoi leaders were really lucky Bishop Pompallier was buried in Paris. “If he went to Lyons, he would have been buried with his parents. Maori custom is not to separate a child from his parents,” he said.