Born at Cuet, Diocese of Belley, France, 1802; died at Futuna, 28 April, 1841. He was ordained priest in 1827, and engaged in the parochial ministry for a few years; but the reading of letters of missionaries in far-away lands inflamed his heart with zeal, and he resolved to devote his life to the Apostolate. In 1831 he joined the Society of Mary, and in 1836 he embarked for Oceania. He was assigned by his bishop to the Island of Futuna, and landed in Nov., 1837. No Christian missionary had ever set foot there, and the difficulties Peter encountered amidst those savage tribes were almost incredible. Nevertheless, he was beginning to see the results of his efforts, when Niuluki, king and also pontiff of the island, already jealous of the progress of the new religion, was exasperated by the conversion of his son and daughter. At his instigation, one of the ministers gathered some of the enemies of Christianity and Peter was cruelly assassinated without uttering a word of complaint. Through his death, the venerable martyr obtained what he had so ardently desired and earnestly worked for, the conversion of Futuna. In 1842, two Marist missionaries resumed his work, and nowhere has the preaching of the Gospel produced more wonderful results. Peter was declared Venerable by Pius IX in 1857, and beatified by Leo XIII on 17 November, 1889.
- Joseph Freri, Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 11
Proto-martyr of Oceanica, born at Cuet, dep. of Ain, France, 1803, died at Futuna, Friendly Islands, Oceanica, 28 April, 1841. Being of humble parentage, a zealous priest, M. Trompier, assisted his education. Ordained priest in 1827, he went as curate to Ambérieux and later as pastor to Crozet. His desire to serve in the foreign missions drew him, in 1831, into the newly-founded Society of Mary which, having been formally approved, 29 April, 1836, was entrusted with the evangelization of Occidental Oceanica. Chanel, after taking the three religious vows at the hands of Father Colin, founder and first superior of the Marists, embarked that same year for his distant mission under the leadership of Bishop Bataillon, and was sent to the island called Horn, or Allofatu, by geographers, and Futuna by the natives. War between rival tribes and the practice of cannibalism had reduced its population to a few thousands when Chanel landed on its shores. The religion he found there was a worship of terror offered to evil deities. Chanel laboured faithfully amid the greatest hardships, learning the native language, attending the sick, baptizing the dying, and winning from all the name of “the man with the kind heart”. Niuliki, the then ruler, showed first an amicable disposition towards the missionary and even declared him “taboo”, or sacred and inviolable; but when he saw that his subjects were being drawn away from the idols into the white man’s religion, he issued an edict against him to avert the movement towards Christianity. At that very time his son Meitala joined the missionary.
Musumusu, Niuliki’s prime minister and an implacable enemy of Christianity, then concocted a plot with the petty chiefs against the Christians, which was carried out with great cruelty. At day-break, on 28 April, 1841, the conspirators assembled together and, after wounding many neophytes whom they had surprised sleeping, proceeded to Chanel’s hut. One shattered his arm and wounded his left temple with a war-club. Another struck him to the ground with a bayonet. A third beat him severely with a club. The missionary was uttering the while words of gentle resignation: “Malie fuai” (it is: well for me). Musumusu himself, enraged at the tardiness of death, split open the martyr’s skull with an adze. The remains of the martyred missionary, hurriedly buried, were later claimed by M. Lavaux, commander of the French naval station of Tahiti, and taken to France on a government transport, 1842. The cause of the beatification of Father Chanel, introduced 1857, terminated by the Brief “Quemadmodum” of 16 Nov., 1889. The solemnities took place the following day in the basilica of St. Peter, Rome. “Oceanicæ protomartyr” is the official title given Blessed Chanel by the Congregation of Rites in the decree declaring: “tuto procedi posse ad solemnem Ven. servi Dei P. M. Chanel beatificationem”.
- J.P. Sollier, Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 3