PORTUENSE, D. Fr. Vitoriano (1651-1705)
12th bishop of Cape Verde.
He was born in Porto in 1651. His baptized name was Vitoriano da Costa and he was the son of Manuel da Costa Neves and Maria Barbosa de Barros, wealthy people. He graduated in law from the University of Coimbra. In 1674, he entered the convent of S. António de Aveiro at the age of 23, and he professed in 1677 as a Franciscan of the province of Soledade. According to historical records, he was one of the most charismatic bishops of Cape Verde. The dates of his presentation and confirmation in consistory, as well as consecration are unknown. He was accompanied by a retinue of clergymen from the bishopric of Porto, who would come to provide canonry, some of them having returned to the kingdom. In 1687, he was already in Cape Verde and in September of that year he led the interim government after a town-council election, as Veríssimo Carvalho da Costa had ?abandoned? his government post. For about one year, the interim office was very troubled, as he was accused of not distinguishing between civilian and ecclesiastical governments and disrespecting the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical judge, and as such he came into conflict with the local society. His government was considered ?overbearing? and ?absolute? and would be the subject of inquiry. Following his predecessor and having received royal assent, he took the bold decision to complete the cathedral, whose construction had been halted after the death of its founder, D. Francisco da Cruz. Such a decision was contrary to the will of the residents and unusual in a situation of economic decline, because there were insufficient funds to finance the construction, in proportion to the immense initial plan. D. Fr. Vitoriano remained undeterred, and he temporarily became a merchant and sent slaves and the precious materials of the miter to be sold in Lisbon, where the materials for the construction were purchased. In 1693 the bulk of the construction was finished, leaving only the towers, the covering of the main part of the church and the choir to complete; the ecclesiastical prison was finished. Afterwards he transferred to the new cathedral the diocesan chapter and all of the ornaments of the church of Misericórdia, which until then had served as the cathedral. The local society, who had been able to have some influence over the diocesan chapter up until now, was against this decision of D. Fr. Vitoriano. The bishop started a dispute with the brotherhood of Misericórdia, and planned to visit the church and audit their accounts. The local hierarchy?s fear of the bishop?s fiscal action was such that it escalated into a conflict. The brotherhood appealed to the king, since these institutions were under immediate royal protection. Only royal intervention would stop D. Fr. Vitoriano, who because of these activities had become persona non grata on the islands. Since he had very little support in the diocesan chapter, except for the capitulars he had appointed personally, and as he had been graced with an Alvará das Faculdades, the bishop established a strategic alliance with the Franciscan confreres of the province of Soledade, to whom the mission was given on the islands and Rivers of Guinea. These friars accompanied him in the visitations that he made to the entire bishopric in 1693. He was also the first and only bishop of Cape Verde to travel to the Rivers of Guinea (in 1694 and 1697) with the intent to bring Christianity to king of Bissau. He appointed his Franciscan confreres to the parishes, as he considered the local clergymen incapable, which is why he ended the ordination of the locals, and he affirmed that he had encountered several New Christians. The Portuguese clergymen, even when given the highest dignities in the diocesan chapter, fled to the kingdom without permission from the prelate. It resulted in several clergymen being sentenced for concubinage. According to D. Fr. Vitoriano, the only solution for the diocese was the creation of a seminary to educate ordinands to make them suitable for the priesthood. In the end of his bishopric, construction of the seminary started, reusing the facilities of the Episcopal palace, but the project was aborted after his death. The method that he found to affect the local elite was by denouncing situations of concubinage and the mistreatment of slaves, in addition to trying to impose punishment on them for not baptizing the slaves and not liberating them to learn the doctrine, having ordered the publication of a pastoral letter to that effect. He developed an equal criticism of the society of Cape Verde and Cacheu for the practice of usury and for embarking slaves without baptizing them. The bishop personally prevented the shipment of some, which led to a royal decision forcing him to refrain from such action. At the end of his bishopric, he was devoted only to spiritual exercises in the convent of S. Francisco and to visitations to the island of Santiago, having initiated the churches of S. Salvador in Picos and in the lands of Boaventura. He revealed his disappointment with the inefficacy of Episcopal action and he asked the king to renounce the ?chain? of the bishopric. He died in January of 1705 and was buried at the cathedral in the Episcopal tomb.
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Author: Maria João Soares
Translated by: John Starkey