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Vieira, Antonio°


VIEIRA, ANTONIO ° (1608–1697), Portuguese priest politician, and writer. Born in Lisbon, Vieira was taken to Brazil by his parents when he was six years old. In 1641 Vieira was sent to Portugal with an embassy to the new king, John iv, who became fascinated with the dynamic priest and eventually came to look upon him as his most trusted counselor. Vieira represented Portugal diplomatically – and the king personally – in Italy, France, and the Low Countries from 1646 to 1650. When recommending the formation of a company to develop Brazil he advocated a repeal of New *Christian disabilities, proposing as a first step the abolition of confiscation of Crypto-Jewish property. Since the *Inquisition was the major beneficiary of such confiscations, Vieira made a powerful enemy. Pressure was brought on his Jesuit superiors to have him reassigned safely to Brazil. After the death of John iv in 1656 and the political realignment of 1662, Vieira was left without friends in the palace. The Inquisition seized him for preaching supposedly Judaistic ideas about the Messiah, but it was common knowledge that he was imprisoned more for proposing the removal of Jewish disabilities than for voicing heretical ideas. When another palace revolution in 1667 returned his friends to a measure of power, he was released. In 1669 he went to Rome, where he was given a papal grant of immunity from the jurisdiction of the Inquisition. From 1669 to 1675 he was a major factor in the Roman political arena, and is credited with securing a relaxation of inquisitorial activities in Portugal for the years 1676–81. This he accomplished by backing the efforts of the Marrano lobbyist Francisco *d'Azevedo to buy the freedom of accused Judaizers, and by presenting for papal review a 200-page exposé of Portuguese inquisitors that characterized them as inspired more by greed than by piety. Vieira's incisive memorandum was later included in David *Nieto's defense of Jews, Recondite Notices of the Inquisition of Spain and Portugal (London, 1722).


C.R. Boxer, A Great Luso-Brazilian Figure: Padre Antonio Vieira (1957); R. Southey, Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (Bristol, 1799), 452–4; Roth, Marranos, 342, 348; J.L. d'Azevedo,… História de Antonio Vieira, 2 vols. (1918–20).

[Aaron Lichtenstein]

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