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Paraguay, Jesuit Martyrs of, Ss.


Jesuit missionaries and martyrs; d. Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, Nov. 15 and 17, 1628; canonized at Asunción, Paraguay, by John Paul II, May 16, 1988.

Roch González de Santa Cruz, b. Asunción, Paraguay, 1576; d. Caaró, November 17; he dedicated his life to the evangelization of the native peoples. He was appointed priest of the cathedral and, in 1609, vicar-general of the diocese. On May 9, 1609, he entered the Society of Jesus. In 1615 he began his missionary work by founding the Reducción of Itapúa and in subsequent years other such settlements. In 1620 he was appointed by his superiors to give religious instruction to the inhabitants of the area that is now the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. There he was martyred at the Reducción of Todos los Santos, the last one he founded. He had two companions in his martyrdom.

Alonso Rodríguez, b. Zamora, Spain, March 10, 1598; d. Caaró, November 15. He entered the Society of Jesus on March 25, 1614, and arrived in Buenos Aires on Feb. 15, 1617. After completing his studies, he gave religious instruction to the native peoples for four years.

Juan del Castillo, b. Belmonte, Spain, Sept. 14, 1596;d. Iyuí in the Reducción of La Asunción, two days later (November 17). He entered the Society of Jesus on March 22, 1614. Assigned to Paraguay, he arrived in Buenos Aires with Rodríguez and worked among the native peoples there for three years.

Their bodies were taken first to the Reducción of Candeleria and later transferred to that of the Immaculate Conception. These Jesuits became the first American martyrs to be beatified (Jan. 28, 1934, by Pius XI).

Pope John Paul II praised the Paraguayan martyrs because "neither the obstacles of the wilderness, the misunderstanding of people, nor the attacks of those who saw their evangelizing activity as a threat to personal interests could intimidate these champions of the faith" (canonization homily). They are patrons of native traditions.

Feast: Nov. 16.

Bibliography: l. g. jaeger, Os-bem aventurados Roque González, Alfonso Rodríquez e João del Castillo: Mártires do Caaró e Pirapó, 2d ed. (Pôrto Alegre 1951). l. kohler, Los tres héroes de Caaró y Pirapó (Posadas, Argentina 1978). g. mÁrkus, The Radical Tradition: Revolutionary Saints in the Battle for Justice and Human Rights (New York 1993) 14350. c. j. mcnaspy, Conquistador without Sword: The Life of Roque González (Chicago 1984), tr. of Roque González de Santacruz, un conquistador sin espada (Asunción, Paraguay 1983). h. thurston, "The First Beatified Martyr of Spanish America," Catholic Historical Review 20 (193435): 37183. j. n. tylenda, Jesuit Saints & Martyrs (Chicago 1998) 38792. r. e. velÁzquez, Roque González de Santa Cruz, colonia y reducciones en el Paraguay de 1600 (Asunción, Paraguay 1975).

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