S. DIONÍSIO, D. Fr. António de (c.1615-1684)
11th bishop of Cape Verde.
He was born circa 1615 in Arrifana; Franciscan; master of theology in the University of Coimbra, where he studied and lectured for 18 years in theology and jurisprudence; he was vicar and confessor in the monastery of Santa Clara in Coimbra. He was chosen in 1668 as bishop of S. Tomé de Meliapor in India, but he was not confirmed by the Curia; he was presented as bishop of Cape Verde in September of 1675, and was confirmed by Rome on December 2, 1675. He arrived in the diocese in June of 1676, and was accompanied by several Franciscan friars from the province of Algarve. When he was still in Lisbon, he acquired several additional benefits to be paid in Santiago?s customs with precedence, as well as the privilege of an embarkation to use when he (or an intermediary visitator) left in visitation for the islands. These benefits would be moved from the financial fund known as ?deposit of the cathedral,? which was intended for the construction of the cathedral. However, in Cape Verde, he rarely received payment in silver coins, as was the old common practice. Rather, he was paid in barafulas, a name which described a type of cloth manufactured locally which was intended for exchange in the Rivers of Guinea. This forced him to trade, namely slaves, and to contract loans. For his sustenance he saw himself constrained to hypothecate the silver of the miter and to sell the scanty goods that he had brought from the kingdom. The local panorama was such that a short time after arriving he asked to resign from the bishopric. He believed that the diocese had earned such a bad reputation in the kingdom that it was doubtful any Portuguese clergymen would want to come to Cape Verde, a true ?purgatory.? He personally visited the island of Fogo in 1676, and he excommunicated the captain-major, who didn?t comply with the bula da Ceia and sold weapons to the heathens of the Rivers of Guinea, in addition to having incurred incest and the rape of a damsel; this official rebelled openly against the bishop, who didn?t even manage to get him sentenced by the secular tribunals. He was one of the first insular bishops, having ordered to place parish priests in the islands of Maio, Boa Vista, S. Nicolau and Santo Antão, as well as having sent utensils and objects for worship from the churches of Santiago to the other respective churches. He ordered that the faithful of the Barlavento islands work together to pay the vicars? ecclesiastical allowances, and he received a favorable response from the islands of Maio, Boa Vista and S. Nicolau. At his residence, he received local clergymen from those islands, to whom he provided instruction for ordination. He considered that only the local priests from each island could assure that the local parishioners received spiritual guidance, given that they could not attract clergymen from the outside, especially from Santiago, where the clergy congregated. As it was the local ?custom,? the bishop was to be elected interim governor because of the death in August 1676 of Governor João Cardoso Pizarro, who had informally designated that the bishop succeed him. The town-council bought the votes and exited the winner. The bishop refused the interim office because he didn?t have an expressed royal order to that effect, and he thought the government of Cape Verde did not conform to ecclesiastical standards, with illegalities being commonplace. The bishop indicated that the interim government of the town-council and Judge Francisco Pereira was broadly conniving with the contraband. Circa 1676-77, one of the common food shortages arose, and the bishop considered it as punishment for the many ?thefts and armed robberies? that had occurred. He tried to address the situation together with the town-council, offering to send a ship at his expense to the Rivers of Guinea to import corn, but the municipality ignored the proposal. D. Fr. Cristóvão, as it was customary, also became estranged from the diocesan chapter after he accused several canons of stealing goods and ornaments from the cathedral and other churches of Santiago. He submitted several of them to ecclesiastical justice, which resulted in prison for one ecclesiastic and banishment from Santiago for another. Several canons, particularly the ones that were away in Lisbon, tried to defame the bishop in the court. The bishop intended to resolve the issue of the restoration of the cathedral, as it had been ordered by the king, but the brothers of Misericórdia, where the cathedral functioned, tried to impede the construction with promises of enlargement of the church of the order. The bishop proposed the reconstruction of the cathedral with a more moderate plan than the original, which was initiated circa 1560 by D. Francisco da Cruz, and the solution was accepted. The bishop died on September 13, 1684.
Anónimo (1784), Notícia Corográfica e Cronológica do Bispado de Cabo Verde, ? edição e notas de António Carreira, Lisboa, Instituto Caboverdeano do Livro, 1985.
ALMEIDA, Fortunato de, História da Igreja em Portugal, nova ed.preparada e dirigida por Damião Peres, vol. II, Porto-Lisboa, Livraria Civilização, 1968, pp. 686.
PAIVA, José Pedro, Os Bispos de Portugal e do Império, 1495-1777, Coimbra, Imprensa da Universidade, 2006.
REMA, Henrique Pinto, ?Diocese de Cabo Verde?, História Religiosa de Portugal, dir. de Carlos Azevedo, Lisboa, Círculo de Leitores, 2001, vol. II, A-C, pp. 280-284.
SOARES, Maria João, ?A Igreja em tempo de mudança política, social e cultural?, História Geral de Cabo Verde, vol. III, coord. de Maria Emília Madeira Santos, Lisboa-Praia, IICT-INIPPC, 2002, pp. 341-346.
SOUSA, António Caetano de, Catálogo dos bispos das igrejas de Cabo Verde, S. Tomé e Angola in Colleçam dos documentos, estatutos e memórias da Academia real da História Portugueza que neste anno de 1722 se compuzerão e se imprimirão por ordem dos seus censores, Lisboa, Pascoal da Sylva, 1722.
Author: Maria João Soares
Translated by: John Starkey