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17th century Brazilian Jesuit set for sainthood

The Blessed Martyrs of Natal, who were killed in two massacres in southern Brazil in 1645, will become saints on 15 October 2017.

The Blessed Martyrs of Natal, a group of 30 Brazilian Roman Catholic individuals — including Jesuit missionary Fr André de Soveral — who were killed in two massacres in southern Brazil in 1645, will become saints on 15 October 2017.

Monument dedicated to the martyrs.

Monument dedicated to the martyrs.

The 30 individuals were beatified in Saint Peter’s Square on 5 March 2000. On 23 March 2017 Pope Francis signed a decree that approved their canonisation while waiving the miracle required for sainthood.

The Natal region had been colonised after the Portuguese Catholics arrived but Dutch Calvinists soon took over and spread anti-Catholic sentiment across the region, persecuting all remaining Catholics.

A number of priests moved to the area in order to sustain the people in their faith. Among them was Fr de Soveral, who was born in Brazil in 1572 and entered the Society of Jesus in 1593.

On 16 July 1645, 69 people were gathered in the chapel of Our Lady of the Candles in Cunhaú, Natal, for a Mass that Fr Soveral presided over. Just before the Eucharistic rite Dutch soldiers attacked the chapel and murdered Soveral and a companion, Domingos Carvalho.

On 3 October 1645 a second massacre led by a group of natives and Dutch Calvinists took place. Among the victims this time was a second priest, Fr Ambrósio Francisco Ferro.

Mateus Moreira — a victim of the onslaught — is said to have cried out as he died: ‘Praise be the Blessed Sacrament.’

The 30 martyrs are:

  • André de Soveral (b. 1572) — priest
  • Domingos Carvalho — layman
  • Ambrósio Francisco Ferro — priest
  • Antônio Vilela — married layman
  • A daughter of Vilela — young laywoman
  • José do Porto — layman
  • Francisco de Bastos — layman
  • Diogo Pereira — layman
  • João Lostau Navarro — layman
  • Antônio Vilela Cid — layman
  • Estêvão Machado de Miranda — married layman
  • A daughter of de Miranda — young laywoman
  • A daughter of de Miranda — young laywoman
  • Vicente de Souza Pereira — layman
  • Francisco Mendes Pereira — layman
  • João da Silveira — layman
  • Simão Correia — layman
  • Antônio Baracho — layman
  • Mateus Moreira — layman
  • João Martins — layman
  • Seven companions of Martins — (laypeople)
  • Manuel Rodrigues de Moura — married layman
  • The wife of Moura — married laywoman
  • A daughter of Francisco Dias — laywoman

The current postulator for this cause is Fra Giovangiuseppe Califano.

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