October 16, 2017 — Yesterday, Pope Francis canonized 35 new saints, including Brazilian St. André de Soveral.
André de Soveral, who entered the Society of Jesus in 1593, was one of the 30 “Martyrs of Natal” who were also canonized; they were killed in 1645 in a wave of anti-Catholic persecution carried out by Dutch Calvinists in Natal, Brazil.
St. de Soveral was born in Brazil in 1572. His first missionary experience was in Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, in 1606 among the Potiguar Indios. In 1614, he left the Society of Jesus and began ministering as a diocesan priest in Cunhau in Natal.
On July 16, 1645, Fr. de Soveral was celebrating Mass in Cunhau when Dutch Calvinist soldiers burst into the chapel, attacked the faithful and killed Fr. de Soveral. About three months later, another diocesan priest, Fr. Ambrosio Francisco Ferro, and his parishioners were killed by the soldiers.
A banner of the "Martyrs of Natal," Brazil, hangs from the facade of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. André de Soveral is pictured on the left. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The 30 individuals martyred in these two events were beatified by St. John Paul II in 2000; in March of this year, Pope Francis signed a decree that approved their canonization while waiving the miracle required for sainthood.
Saints like the Martyrs of Natal offer a “new opportunity, hope and a renewal of faith” that can bring peace to a world battered by injustice, war and violence, said Brazilian Archbishop Jaime Vieira Rocha.
“The grace of their canonization will certainly help create a society that is less vengeful, less violent, more fraternal,” and encourage Catholics to stand up “for the dignity of the people,” he said.
The other saints canonized yesterday included three children, ages 12 and 13, who were indigenous persons in Mexico martyred in the 1520s for refusing to renounce their Catholic faith. The other two new saints are a 20th-century priest from Spain, Faustino Miguez, and an Italian priest, Angelo of Acri, who died in 1739. [Sources: Australian Jesuits, CNS, Manresa-SJ.org, AP]