The French Overseas Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands observes Saint Pierre-Chanel Day on 28 April. The holiday seeks to honour the memory of Pierre Chanel, a Roman Catholic priest who became a missionary to the South Pacific Region.
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In 1831, Chanel joined the Society of Mary, and in 1836, he went on a mission in the South Pacific. In the year 1837, Chanel came as a missionary to the island of Futuna. At first, he was welcomed by the locals, but later, the chief feared the message Chanel brought would serve to undermine his own authority. When the chief’s son converted to Roman Catholicism, the chief sent people to club him to death, which they did.
Chanel died in 1841, was declared a martyr in 1889, and was made a Roman Catholic saint by a declaration of Pope Pius XII in 1954. Wallis and Futuna now recognises Saint Peter Chanel as their official patron saint, and he is also the patron saint of the whole of Oceania. The date 28 April was chosen for the holiday because that is the day on which Chanel was killed in 1841.
To celebrate Saint Pierre-Chanel Day, many in Wallis and Futuna will roast a pig, enjoy a full, traditional feast, watch dance performances, and party for much of the day. They may also review the history and legacy of Peter Chanel or hear him mentioned in a Catholic mass on or near to 28 April.
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