GUERRA, Manuel Afonso da (1570-1624)
8th bishop of Cape Verde.
He was born in Guimarães between 1570 and 1580, and he was the son of António Afonso and Maria Gomes, residents of Rua dos Mercadores, where they had a modest store selling linen, cloths and thread. After the father?s death, when he was still a young boy, the family moved to Salamanca, where he entered the Colégio Menor de Madalena. In 1599, already an ordained clergyman, he entered the college of S. Bartolomeu to study in the faculty of canons, where he would earn a doctorate. He had the reputation of being a distinguished scholar. When he returned to Portugal, Filipe III assigned him to the abbey of Vila Flor, where he remained until he was appointed to the diocese of Cape Verde on November 28, 1615, and confirmed by the Curia on February 24, 1616. However, he only embarked to the diocese more than 6 years later. D. Manuel Afonso successively delayed his departure, making repeated requests for additional financial support and for liturgical ornaments, wishes that were satisfied gradually and with difficulty by the depleted royal treasury. In Cape Verde, the bishop was accused of ?strolling in the court? while the financial crisis deepened in the archipelago. The diocesan chapter had already been reduced to half, because four or five canons and two dignitaries had died. In addition, there were no preachers. The existing canons felt constrained to practice parochial service because of the lack of vicars and curates. The bishop sent a Franciscan religious named Fr. Diogo to serve as governor of the bishopric, but the king ordered him to return to the kingdom. Filipe III must have been personally involved in the bishop?s departure to Lisbon in 1619, as D. Manuel preached for the king in the church of the monastery of Santos during the feast of S. Tiago. On this occasion, he gave the sermon in Castilian, which was printed in that year. In Cape Verde, one of the most immediate issues that the clergymen debated was the accumulation of unpaid allowances and expenses, and in 1613 the amount of debt grew to over 7 thousand reis because of missed payments to the contracted suppliers. While still in Lisbon, he was able to obtain a favorable ruling for the miter, as he was the sole inheritor of the estate of D. Fr. Pedro Brandão fifteen years after his death. He must have attracted a few thousand cruzados for the miter. In 1619, the council and the diocesan chapter gave information about the critical situation of the church: there was no one to ordain new priests, and even the sacrament of baptism was at risk because of the shortage of consecrated oils. The canons affirmed that the situation ?has at times already compelled them to leave the church and go to the fields to sustain with the provisions of the black people.? Before departing for the diocese, he was graced with an Alvará das Faculdades, the first bishop of Cape Verde to obtain this concession. Upon his arrival in Santiago, he soon felt the heavy responsibility of being an interim governor. It was the first time that a bishop was called to take this critical position, a result of the death of Governor Francisco Rolim (on September 12, 1622), who designated in his will that D. Manuel Afonso da Guerra be his successor. This mandate wasn?t peaceful, as the town-council was against his nomination and only accepted his authority after several negotiations. The town-council accused the bishop-governor of being a merchant and suggested that he be deposed and that the governorship be entrusted to them or that they implement a governorship that would be intercalated weekly. Besides the incompatibility with the town-council, D. Manuel Afonso da Guerra also earned the enmity of the Jesuits, because he sought judicial action against them for disobeying several pious legacies, among them the copious legacy of the prosperous merchant Diogo Ximenes Vargas, as well as the inheritance that was left to them by his predecessor D. Luís Pereira de Miranda. D. Manuel Afonso Guerra complained to the kingdom about the subject of the high debt owed to him and the entire clergy for allowances and expenses, which had accumulated to several thousand cruzados. In summary, D. Manuel Afonso da Guerra had a short but troubled bishopric of little more than two years. It was marked by his interference in insular civil politics and his involvement in commercial and financial practices. He seems to have contributed very little, not only to the pastoral work of the diocese of Cape Verde, but also to the resolution of the conflicts within the ecclesiastical chapter. He died on March 8th, 1624 and was buried at the church of Misericórdia, a cathedral church.
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Translated by: John Starkey