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(Vicariate Apostolic of Batavia)

When the Portuguese took possession of the island of Java, of which Batavia is the capital, they brought the Christian religion with them; but the Dutch, having conquered Java in 1596, set about the destruction of Catholicism. Nevertheless, the memory has been preserved of a Friar Minor who was expelled from Batavia in 1721, and attempted to continue his apostolic labours in China. It was with difficulty that a priest could enter Java, and, if recognized, he was hunted out. When in 1807 Louis Napoleon became King of Holland, Pius VII divided all the Dutch territory outside of Europe into three prefectures, two in the West Indies and the third, with Batavia for its seat, in the East Indies. At this period the Dutch missionaries James Nelissen and Lambert Preffen set out for the Sunda Islands, and reached Batavia, 4 April, 1808. The Government gave them at first a ruinous Calvinist place of worship, and then added to this act of generosity sufficiently to enable them to erect a church, which was blessed, under the title of Our Lady of the Assumption, 6 November, 1829. Nelissen died 6 December, 1817, and Preffen succeeded him in this prefecture.

On the 20th of September, 1842, Gregory XVI raised the Prefecture of Batavia to a vicariate Apostolic, and Monsignor Groof, titular Bishop of Canea, and previously prefect Apostolic of Surinam, became the first vicar Apostolic. A coadjutor was given him, 4 June, 1847, in Monseigneur Pierre-Marie Vrancken, titular Bishop of Colophon, who succeeded him in 1852. The Dutch Government, however, did not leave the first missionaries in peace, and Monsignor Groof, together with Father Van den Brand, a missionary priest, was expelled. Monsignor Vrancken died in 1874, and Pius IX then entrusted the mission of Batavia to the Dutch Jesuits. The first Jesuit vicar Apostolic was Monsignor Claessens (1874-93), who was succeeded by Monsignor Staal (1894-97) and Monsignor Luypen, the present (1907) incumbent of the office. The Jesuits energetically set about the development of the mission, which then comprised the islands of Java, Sumatra, Borneo, the Sunda group, Timor, the Celebes, and the Moluccas.

In 1851 the Catholics in the vicariate numbered between 5000 and 6000; in 1879 there were 23,527, not including the Catholic members of the garrison, and 27 missionaries were labouring in different parts of the Sunda Islands. Although the whole island of Borneo and Dutch New Guinea have since been separated form the vicariate, Streit's "Atlas des missions" now gives the following statistics: Total population of the vicariate, 37,325,000; native Christians, 27,313 (in addition to 25,000 European Catholics ); 720 catechumens ; 54 religious in priest's orders; 40 male religious not priests ; 250 Sisters of different orders; 94 catechists; 22 principal stations; 78 secondary stations; 40 churches, and 59 schools with 2482 pupils.

Pius IX had separated the British portions of the islands of Borneo and Labuan from the vicariate in 1855; in 1903 Leo XIII erected Dutch New Guinea into a new prefecture; and Pius X, in 1905, formed a prefecture out of the remainder of the island of Borneo, again taken from the territory of the vicariate. There still remains of its territory: the island of Sumatra, 181,250 sq. m.; Java, 50,715 sq. m.; the small islands of the Sunda group (Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Sumba, Flores, and Timor) aggregating 36,507 sq. m.; and Celebes, 73.270 sq. m. The Moluccas have been attached to the Prefecture of Dutch New Guinea. The Vicariate of Batavia, therefore, now comprises an area of more than 340,000 sq. m., or more than the combined areas of the German Empire and Great Britain and Ireland. The principal stations are: in Sumatra, Medan, in the north-east and Padang, in the west; in Java, Batavia (residence of the vicar Apostolic ), Samerang, and Surabaya; in Timor, Fialarang; in Flores, Maumeri and Laruntuk; in Celebes, Macassar and Menado. The natives speak their own dialects, but in the coast towns Dutch and Malay are the languages current. The Ursulines, established at Batavia and Surabaya, furnish the largest contingent of religious women in the vicariate, amounting to 170.


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