Rudolf Acquaviva and Companions, Bb.

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Martyrs killed Monday, July 25, 1583 (Gregorian calendar), in the village of Conculim (Salsette, Goa, India); the group included Fathers Alfonso Pacheco, Peter Berno, Antonio Francisco, and Brother Francisco Aranha.

Rudolf Acquaviva ; b. Atri old kingdom of Naples, Italy, Oct. 2, 1550. He was the fifth child of the duke of Atri and nephew of the future general of the Society of Jesus, Claudius acquaviva. His mother was a cousin of St. aloysius gonzaga. He was admitted to the Society of Jesus April 2, 1568, in Rome and studied in Macerata and Rome. He was ordained and reached Goa, Sept. 13, 1578. Shortly after, he was selected as superior for the very important mission to the court of the Great Mogul Akbar, who in 1579 had sent an embassy to Goa with a request that two learned missionaries be sent to Fatehpur Sîkrî his favorite residence near Agra; Acquaviva arrived there at the end of February 1580. His zeal and austerity won the admiration of the Mogul and his court, who regretted his return to Goa in February 1583. At Goa, he was appointed superior of the Salsette mission, the post he held at his martyrdom.

Alfonso Pacheco ; b. Minaya (Albacete) Spain, c. 1549. He entered the society on Sept. 8, 1567 in the Province of Toledo; in 1573 he studied theology in Alcalá. Before his ordination the following year, he sailed with A. Valignano for India, landing in Goa. His prudence and virtue influenced his being chosen in 1578 for an important European mission. He returned to India in 1581, and was made rector of Rachol (Salsette). He accompanied two punitive expeditions of the Portuguese to the village of Conculim, and was instrumental in destroying the pagodas there.

Peter Berno ; b. Ascona (Locarno), Switzerland, c. 1552. He entered the society at Rome, July 2, 1577; two years later he left Lisbon for Goa. Soon he was appointed to Salsette. He, too, accompanied the punitive expeditions to Cuncolim and assisted in destroying the Hindu temples; he overturned an anthill that was deemed very sacred, and killed a cow, thus deeply offending orthodox Hindus.

Antonio Francisco ; b. Coimbra, Portugal, c. 155053. He was an impoverished student when he joined the society in Coimbra on Sept. 7, 1571, and accompanied Pacheco to India in 1581. Shortly afterward he was ordained in Goa. He was then sent to the Moluccas, but a storm impeded his voyage and he returned to Goa, where the superiors assigned him to the Church of Orlim (in Salsette).

Francisco Aranha ; b. probably at Braga, Portugal, c. 1551. He was born of a wealthy and noble family and went to India with his uncle, the first archbishop of Goa, D. Gaspar de Leão (1560). There he joined the Society of Jesus as a brother on Nov. 1, 1571. He often accompanied the fathers in their apostolic work.

The five religious met in the Church of Orlim on July 25, 1583, and thence proceeded to Conculim in the southeast, accompanied by some native Christians, with the object of erecting a cross and selecting ground for a church. Hindus, aroused by this threat to their religious beliefs, decided to destroy them. The Hindus attacked the Jesuits and their followers, killing them and tossing their bodies into a well. A few days later, the bodies were recovered and solemnly buried in the Church of Our Lady of the Snows. In 1587 the remains were removed to the city of Goa, where they are still venerated.

A narrative describing their death, written in 1583 by Father Valignano, was reprinted and translated several times. The process of canonization began in 1600, but it was only in 1741 that benedict xiv declared the martyrdom proved. On April 16, 1893, the solemn beatification of the five martyrs was celebrated in Rome, and in 1894, in Goa. The absence of miracles has delayed the process of canonization of the five as a group.

Feast: July 27; Feb. 4 (Jesuits).

Bibliography: d. bartoli, Missione al Gran Mogor del P. Ridolfo Aquaviva (Venice 1851), a monograph on the five martyrs. n. angelini and h. gruber, Der selige Rudolf Acquaviva und seine Gefährten (Regensburg 1894). e. d. maclagan, The Jesuits and the Great Mogul (London 1932). j. n. tylenda, Jesuit Saints & Martyrs (Chicago 1998) 22028.

[j. wicki]