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CAPUCHIN CHAMPIONS OF NEGRO EMANCIPATION IN CUBA (1681-1685) THE COLONISTS had never considered the Negro as belonging to the pale of Christianity. Only from time to time the humanitarian world heard a few protests like that of the two Capuchins who were imprisoned in Havana because of their inveighing against the failure on the part of the planters to provide for the religious instruction of the Negroes. Being in the minority these upright pioneers too often had their voices hushed in persecution , as it happened in the case of the two monks." x These words of Carter G. Woodson, the eminent historian of the Negroes of America, do not do full justice to the two Capuchins. These fathers did more than "inveighing against the failure on the part of the planters to provide for the religious instruction of the Negroes ." They fearlessly attacked the institution of slavery itself. The two Capuchins who, in 1681, championed Negro emancipation in Cuba were Epiphanius of Moirans and Francis Joseph of Jaca. Father Epiphanius was born about the year 1640 in the city of Moirans in southwestern France and joined the Capuchins of the province of Burgundy. Applying for the foreign missions, he was sent by the provincial of the province of Normandy, with Father Bonaventure of Courtray, to the mission of Cayenne in South America. As early as 1635 Capuchins of the province of Normandy had begun their apostolate in French Guiana, sometimes at the cost of their lives. When the colony came under the direct control of the French crown in 1674, the government requested Father Francis of Marneville, provincial of the Capuchins in Normandy and prefect of the missions in the French West Indies and French Guiana, to send missionaries to the colony. Accordingly he or1 . Carter G. Woodson, History of the Negro Church (Washington, D.C.), pp. 3-4. 195 196NEGRO EMANCIPATION IN CUBA dered Fathers Bonaventure and Epiphanius to depart for Cayenne, with the obedience of the minister general and the faculties of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda.2 When the two missionaries were ready to leave in 1676, the Dutch had blocked the sea route and had taken possession of the French colony of Cayenne. No French shipping being available, they went to Lisbon hoping to cross the ocean on a Portuguese vessel. This plan miscarried because the government had forbidden embarkation for non-Portuguese possessions. The missionaries then moved to Genoa in Italy to seek an opportunity for embarkation. Whilst they waited, they received a letter from the nuncio in Paris announcing that, since the French had recaptured Cayenne towards the end of 1676 and had annihilated the Dutch fleet off the island of Tobago in the West Indies, in April 1677, the sea route was again open to them.3 Before the two missionaries took ship at Genoa, they wrote to the secretary of Propaganda in Rome, under date of July 10, 1677, asking for credentials. They stated that there were no regulars in the mission of Cayenne; that they desired to take over this mission field together with four or six other Capuchins, fervent and filled with zeal; that they had the necessary faculties from the French king, Propaganda, and their own superiors. Therefore they petitioned for two distinct decrees. One should give them the island of Cayenne as a mission field, the other should assign Guiana to them. The former diploma was intended for use with the French authorities, the latter with the Spanish government. Thus they would be able to reserve at least one of the territories to themselves by right, even if they could actually appropriate only the other. Since they knew that Propaganda made it a practice not to answer simple missionaries, they asked that their petition be presented directly to the Pope. The secretary of Propaganda endorsed the letter with the one word: "Nihil." 4 Nothing else could be expected. The two fathers had never 2.Cf. Document V. 3.Propaganda Archives, series: Acta de anno 1677, August 2, p. 183; quoted Rocco da Cesinale, O.F.M. Cap., Storia delle Mission/ dei Cappuccini, IH (Roma, 1873), 693. 4.Thomas Aloysius Hughes, S.J., History of the Society of...


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