Christianity, in the form of Roman Catholicism, was brought to Mauritius by the first French settlers who arrived in 1715. In 1721, four Vincentian priests arrived to minister to 161
souls! As the population grew, so did the number of Christians and the territory became a Diocese in 1847, with Mgr William Collier, an English Benedictine, as its first bishop. It was Mgr Collier who had, six years
earlier, invited Fr Jacques Laval, a Holy Ghost Father, to come to Mauritius to minister to the needs of the recently emancipated slaves. Fr Laval, who worked in the island from 1841 till his death in 1864, left
behind him a legacy of service to the poor and the abandoned and he is venerated today by Mauritians of all beliefs. His tomb, at the Church of Ste Croix, outside PortLouis, attracts some 8,000 pilgrims every week
and, on the anniversary of his death, on 9 September, some 100,000 travel to visit his shrine, many of them on foot. Miracles are attributed to his intercession and he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1979.
Around that period also, a Mauritian lady, Christine Lenferna, known in religion as Mere Augustine, founded the congregation of the Bon et Perpëtuel Secours Sisters. One of her early
members, Mere Barthélemy, is well remembered in Port-Louis for her attention to the poor and the establishment of a mission to the Chinese population. Mgr Collier and his successor, Mgr Hankinson invited a number of
other congregations which have left their mark on the history of Mauritius. These include the Loreto Sisters (1845), the De La Salle Brothers (1859), the Filles de Marie (1864) and the Reparatrice Sisters (1866).
Today some 300,000 Mauritians (30% of the population) adhere to the Christian faith. Eighty priests administer to the needs of the Roman Catholic faithful, the majority of them,
Mauritians. The territory of Mauritius and Rodrigues is divided into 48 Catholic parishes and Mgr jean Margeot, the first Mauritian bishop, was consecrated in 1969. His pastoral letters, many of them dealing with
social questions, have made an impact on Mauritian society. Since 1980, for example, he has spoken about the problems of the handicapped, politics at the service of man, the inhumanity of abortion, social justice,
work and the spirit of enterprise and various issues concerning youth, sterilisation and drugs.
On 29 june 1988, Pope john Paul II raised Mgr Margeot to the rank of Cardinal, a source of great pride to all Mauritians. In his inaugural address at the shrine of Marie Reine de La
Paix, on 17 july 1988, Cardinal Margeot began by saying: ‘I thank God that my nomination as Cardinal is an occasion for us all to renew our patriotic fervour. What unites us is so much more important and so much
stronger than what separates! Beyond our differences of culture, religion and race, there is a sentiment of national unity and patriotic pride which draws us together .
The Cardinal went on to speak of his desire to promote the dignity of the human person, the autonomy and separate roles of Church and State, the necessity for religious liberty, freedom
of conscience and an openness to the problems of the world. Cardinal Margeot thus spells out, for the present time, the way for the Mauritian nation and its citizens to be fully alive and give glory to God.
‘I have called you friends, because I have disclosed to you everything that I heard from my Father. You did not choose me, I chose you. I appointed you
to go on and bear fruit, fruit that shall last; so that the Father may give you all that you ask in my name. This is my commandment:that you love one another’’
Although the Roman Catholics have remained the most important Christian religious group on the island, other Christian denominations have also flourished. Anglicanism was introduced in
Mauritius when Britain took possession of the island in 1810. Presbyterians came in 1851. Catholics, Anglicans and Presbyterians have been working together in an oecumenical movement since the 1960’s.
There are also other denominations of Christiantian origin comprising of Baptists, Seventh Day . Catholics, Adventists, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses