Brazil, Martyrs of, Bb.

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Also known as André de Soveral (b. ca. 1572, São Vicente, Brazil), Ambrósio Francisco Ferro, and 28 companions, or the Martyrs of Rio Grande do Norte, protomartyrs of Brazil; d. 1645 in northern Brazil, July 16, 1645 in Cunhaú and Oct. 3, 1645 in Uruaçu (both near Natal).

The martyrdom of André, Ambrósio, and their companions took place in the context of anti-Catholic persecution by Dutch Calvinists who had invaded the Rio Grande do Norte region of Brazil in 1630. The Gospel had been brought to Natal, Brazil, by two Portuguese Jesuits and two Franciscans on Dec. 25, 1597, who catechized the indigenous people. The following century the Dutch Calvinists overtook the region and restricted Catholic practice.

The Massacre at Cunhaú occurred on Sunday, July 16, 1645. Sixty-nine parishioners were worshiping together in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Candles. Dutch soldiers barred the church doors and launched an attack against unresisting civilians. The Massacre at Uruaçu (Oct. 3, 1645) was led by a convert to Calvinism. Dutch troops and armed natives attacked Father Ambrósio Francisco Ferro and some of his parishioners. One of them, Mateus Moreira, was particularly remembered by Pope John Paul II, both at the closing of the National Eucharistic Congress in Natal (1991) and during the beatification homily for refusing to deny the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

The martyrs include André de Soveral, native Brazilian priest, and Ambrósio Francisco Ferro, Portuguese priest; and the laymen Antônio Baracho; the Spaniard Antônio Vilela Cid; Antônio Vilela and his son, slaves; Diogo (James) Pereira; Estêvão Machado de Miranda and his two children; Francisco de Bastos; the son of Francisco Dias, a young slave; Francisco Mendes Pereira; João da Silveira; the Frenchman João Lostau Navarro; João Martins, a youth, and his seven young friends; José do Porto; Manuel Rodrigues de Moura and his wife; Mateus (Matthew) Moreira; Simão Correia; and Vicente de Souza Pereira.

On Dec. 21, 1998, John Paul II declared that the thirty died as martyrs for the faith, and on Mar. 5, 2000, he beatified them.

Bibliography: p. heroncio, Os holandêses no Rio Grande (Rio de Janeiro 1937). L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, no. 10 (2000): 2.

[k. i. rabenstein]

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Brazil, Martyrs of, Bb.

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