Martyrs of Natal

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Martyrs of Natal
Priest; Laypeople; Martyrs
BornAndré de Soveral:
São Vicente, São Paulo, Brazil
DiedAndré de Soveral and Domingos Carvalho:
16 July 1645
Cunhaú, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil
3 October 1645
Uruaçu, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 5 March 2000, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II
Canonized 15 October 2017, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope Francis
Feast 3 October
  • Priest's attire
  • Palm

The Martyrs of Natal were a group of 30 Brazilian Roman Catholic individuals – two of them priests – killed in northern Brazil in massacres that a large group of Dutch Calvinists led. [1] One priest was a Brazilian Jesuit missionary, while the other priest was an evangelizer himself. The others were all lay Catholics, most of them anonymous members of the Church, some of them children. [2] [3] [4]

Brazil Federal republic in South America

Brazil, officially the Federative Republic of Brazil, is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers and with over 208 million people, Brazil is the world's fifth-largest country by area and the fifth most populous. Its capital is Brasília, and its most populated city is São Paulo. The federation is composed of the union of the 26 states, the Federal District, and the 5,570 municipalities. It is the largest country to have Portuguese as an official language and the only one in the Americas; it is also one of the most multicultural and ethnically diverse nations, due to over a century of mass immigration from around the world.

Dutch people or the Dutch are a Germanic ethnic group and nation native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Aruba, Suriname, Guyana, Curaçao, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United States. The Low Countries were situated around the border of France and the Holy Roman Empire, forming a part of their respective peripheries, and the various territories of which they consisted had become virtually autonomous by the 13th century. Under the Habsburgs, the Netherlands were organised into a single administrative unit, and in the 16th and 17th centuries the Northern Netherlands gained independence from Spain as the Dutch Republic. The high degree of urbanization characteristic of Dutch society was attained at a relatively early date. During the Republic the first series of large-scale Dutch migrations outside of Europe took place.

Calvinism Protestant branch of Christianity

Calvinism is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians.


The 30 individuals were beatified in Saint Peter's Square on 5 March 2000. Pope Francis – on 23 March 2017 – signed a decree that approved their canonization while waiving the miracle required for sainthood; the date was formalized at a gathering of cardinals on 20 April and the group was canonized as saints on 15 October 2017.

Pope Francis 266th and current pope

Pope Francis is the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State. Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, the first to visit the Arabian Peninsula, and the first pope from outside Europe since the Syrian Gregory III, who reigned in the 8th century.

Lives and murders


The Natal region was colonized after the Portuguese Catholics arrived but the Dutch Calvinists soon took over and spread their anti-Catholic sentiment across the region, while making persecution of all remaining Catholics an objective for them. [1]

Natal, Rio Grande do Norte Municipality in Northeast, Brazil

Natal is the capital and largest city of the state Rio Grande do Norte, located in northeastern Brazil. According to IBGE's July 2018 report, the city had a total population of 877,640, while Greater Natal had 1,485,505 inhabitants.

Portuguese people ethnic group

Portuguese people are a Romance ethnic group indigenous to Portugal that share a common Portuguese culture and speak Portuguese. Their predominant religion is Christianity, mainly Roman Catholicism, though vast segments of the population, especially the younger generations, have no religious affiliation. Historically, the Portuguese people's heritage largely includes the pre-Celts and Celts, who became culturally Romanized during the conquest of the region by the ancient Romans. A number of Portuguese also can trace descent from Germanic tribes who arrived after the Roman period as ruling elites, including the Suebi and Visigoths in northern Portugal and central Portugal. Finally, also limited converted Jewish and Berbers as a result of the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, especially in the Algarve region of southern Portugal.

Despite the air of persecution some priests moved to the area in order to sustain the people in their faith.

André de Soveral

André de Soveral was born in Brazil in 1572. He was a professed member of the Society of Jesus, having entered the Jesuits in 1593 and making his period of novitiate in Bahia. He studied Latin – as well as the native language – and theological studies before being sent to the college in Olinda. [2] His first experience in the missions was in Rio Grande do Norte in 1606 amongst the natives, for catechism lessons. In 1614 he was a parish priest in Cunhaú.

André de Soveral, SJ was a Portuguese-Brazilian Catholic priest saint and martyr, killed during the Restoration War at the so-called Martyrdom of Cunhau, a massacre promoted by Dutch troops and their Calvinists Protestant elders, who fought against the Portuguese Empire in Brazil. Soveral was canonized in 2017 by Pope Francis along with 29 fellow martyrs.

Society of Jesus male religious congregation of the Catholic Church

The Society of Jesus is a religious order of the Catholic Church headquartered in Rome. It was founded by Ignatius of Loyola with the approval of Pope Paul III in 1540. The members are called Jesuits. The society is engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations. Jesuits work in education, research, and cultural pursuits. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes, sponsor direct social ministries, and promote ecumenical dialogue.


The novitiate, also called the noviciate, is the period of training and preparation that a Christian novice monastic, apostolic, or member of a religious order undergoes prior to taking vows in order to discern whether he or she is called to vowed religious life. It often includes times of intense study, prayer, living in community, studying the vowed life, deepening one's relationship with God, and deepening one's self-awareness. It is a time of creating a new way of being in the world. The novitiate stage in most communities is a two-year period of formation. These years are "Sabbath time" to deepen one's relationship with God, to intensify the living out of the community's mission and charism, and to foster human growth. The novitiate experience for many communities includes a concentrated program of prayer, study, reflection and limited ministerial engagement.

On 16 July 1645 – a Sunday – there were 69 people gathered in the chapel of Our Lady of the Candles for a Mass that Soveral presided over. It was just before the Eucharistic rite that Dutch soldiers attacked the chapel and murdered Soveral and a companion – Domingos Carvalho – along with others. [1]

Eucharist Christian rite

The Eucharist is a Christian rite that is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. According to the New Testament, the rite was instituted by Jesus Christ during the Last Supper; giving his disciples bread and wine during the Passover meal, Jesus commanded his followers to "do this in memory of me" while referring to the bread as "my body" and the cup of wine as "the new covenant in my blood". Through the Eucharistic celebration Christians remember both Christ's sacrifice of himself on the cross and his commission of the apostles at the Last Supper.

October massacre

On 3 October 1645 a total of 200 armed natives with their Dutch allies targeted and hacked to death 30 individuals including children and one priest. [1] The leader of this group was the radical Calvinist Antonio Paraopaba. [3] Mateus Moreira – a victim of the onslaught – cried out as he died: "Praise be the Blessed Sacrament". [4]


Monument dedicated to the martyrs. Monumento aos Martires, Sao Goncalo do Amarante (RN).jpg
Monument dedicated to the martyrs.

The 2 individuals killed on 16 July 1645 are:

The 28 individuals killed on 3 October 1645 are:


The beatification process opened in Natal on 6 June 1989 after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued the official "nihil obstat" and titled them all as Servants of God. The diocesan process spanned from 1989 until 1994 and the C.C.S. later validated this process on 25 November 1994 before receiving the Positio in 1998.

The theologians approved the cause on 23 June 1998 as did the C.C.S. on 10 November 1998. Pope John Paul II confirmed that the group were all killed "in odium fidei" (in hated of the faith) and thus approved their beatifications. He presided over the beatification celebration in Saint Peter's Square on 5 March 2000.

Pope Francis had expressed in the past his closeness to this particular cause and expressed willingness to canonize them as saints. The C.C.S. met on 14 March 2017 to discuss the omission of the miracle needed for canonization and voiced their approval of that. The pope approved the canonization on 23 March 2017 in an official decree with the date formalized at a gathering of cardinals on 20 April; the group was canonized in Saint Peter's Square on 15 October 2017.

The postulator for this cause at the time of the canonization was Fra Giovangiuseppe Califano.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 "Martyrs of Brazil". Saints SQPN. 16 July 2016. Retrieved 2 November 2016.Cite web requires |website= (help)
  2. 1 2 "Blessed André de Soveral, S.J." Manresa. Retrieved 2 November 2016.Cite web requires |website= (help)
  3. 1 2 "Blessed André de Soveral and Domingo Carvalho". Santi e Beati. Retrieved 2 November 2016.Cite web requires |website= (help)
  4. 1 2 "Blessed Catholic Martyrs of Brazil". Santi e Beati. Retrieved 2 November 2016.Cite web requires |website= (help)
  5. Jesuit André de Soveral Among New Saints Canonized by Pope Francis from, retrieved 24 October 2017