Anthroponyms seta ANJOS, D. Gregório dos (1617-1689)

Don Gregory dos Anjos was the first bishop of the diocese of São Luís do Maranhão, which was created on August 30, 1677. His appointment was confirmed on the same day by the papal bull of Inocêncio XI Hodie Ecclesiae Sancti Ludovici.

Born in Lisbon, circa 1617, in the parish of Santa Maria Madalena, Don Gregory became the canoness of the Congregation of Saint John the Evangelist on September 10, 1635. He studied in Évora and Coimbra, where he obtained a doctorate in theology. Within his order, he was rector of the college of Évora of the convent of Saint John the Evangelist and vice-rector of the House of Lisbon and, before the Roman curia, he acted as proxy in the case of the beatification of the Trinitarian Father António da Conceição, who died in captivity in Morocco. Having been named bishop of Malacca in 1672, he was never confirmed in this capacity. His appointment to Maranhão began on July 8, 1677 and he was consecrated in Saint John the Evangelist Church in Lisbon on January 23 of the following year, by Don Veríssimo of Lancaster, head inquisitor.

An eloquent orator, he wrote the biography of his uncle, Don Apolinário de Almeida, a Jesuit who, as Bishop of Nicea, was named coadjutor and future successor of the Patriarch of Ethiopia on June 19, 1642. Fourteen years later, he became a martyr.

On July 11, 1679, Don Gregory disembarked in São Luís, a solemn arrival marked by festivities and celebration that João Filipe Bettendorff describes in detail in his chronicle. He faced a totally new reality, with the mostly turbulent population of a society in the making, where the faithful were divided into three communities: the Portuguese community, with no more than two thousand members; the limited number of blacks who were their slaves; and the vast community of natives of diverse nations and languages, who considered themselves to be answerable to the missionaries, particularly the Jesuits. Along with these three groups, there were also the half-breeds, who lived between two worlds (the coastal towns and the villages of the interior) and two cultures, and were generally alien to religious and moral norms. In what concerns civil authority, they frequently contested the power of the clergy, in the name of the supreme authority of the king over all elements of society, and interfered in ecclesiastic and missionary matters, assuming themselves to be representatives of the sovereign as administrator of the Order of Christ. Since the secular clergy frequently lacked discipline and were few to meet the needs of the population, the bishop had to count on priests from the four religious orders present in the State of Maranhão (Jesuits, Franciscans, Carmelites and Mercedaries). These priests felt themselves to be exempt and autonomous in their missionary work, which they considered to be dependent only on the king.

Particularly serious was the confrontation with the Company of Jesus, when the bishop tried to treat the priests working in Indian villages as common law pastors. Behind the heated controversy echoed the controversy between overseas bishops and ecclesiastic patronage, which reawakened broader issues than a mere appraisal of Don Gregório, who manifested a thorough knowledge of the complex legal doctrines that were at odds with the time. He courageously assumed those that were in keeping with the voice of the bishopric, that is, those that limited royal power by denying the king, as administrator of the Order of Christ, ecclesiastic jurisdiction. By invoking decrees from the Council of Trent before the civil and ecclesiastic authorities, he affirmed himself to be head of the Church and declared the three communities of the faithful and all the territory of the State to be under his jurisdiction. In addition, he assumed himself to be the supreme authority in matters indirectly related to the Church, affirming that temporal authorities should decide nothing without consulting spiritual authorities.

His conflict with the Jesuits might explain his lack of reaction to the famous revolt of 1684, when this religious order was banished from the captaincy of Maranhão. Many members of the clergy and the vicar of the mother church himself participated in this tumult.

Don Gregory performed his pastoral duties as a Tridentine bishop, who transported his tombstone to Maranhão: in visiting the parishes of such an extensive diocese, which he did at least twice; in attempting to strengthen the ecclesiastic structures; in working for the nearly forgotten project of a new diocesan seminary, mentioned despairingly by governor Francisco de Sá de Meneses, who classified it as a grave falsity of the prelate, referring to previous royal determinations that hampered sacred orders in the name of greater service to God and to the king. He accused the bishop of accepting candidates who wanted to escape justice and military service, contrary to those who were impeded by birth for being black, Mamelukes or new Christians. Manifesting pragmatism when faced with the urgency of creating a local clergy, Don Gregory countered that the land impeded better choices. Before he was able to institute the diocesan assembly and leave for Maranhão, economic obstacles appeared - the alleged lack of sufficient tithes. In order to guarantee the income of the diocese and to achieve his objectives as a bishop, the prelate had defended the need for such revenues and benefits, and had evoked the compromises made by the Crown to the Holy See. He claimed that this was the reason he had delayed his departure and, in a letter dated September 6, 1678, he offered to lend a thousand cruzados per year to create a diocesan assembly. In the end, he convinced the ruling prince to create three canonships, an archidiaconate and a deanship.

The non-payment and delays in payment of ecclesiastic income by the royal treasurer dictated many limitations, thereby increasing the dependency of the bishop and his clergy on public and civil power structures, which were also subjected to excommunication for these reasons. Perhaps feeling pressured because of these needs, Don Gregory actually took on mercantile activities. This activity, along with his views on the distribution of the natives, resulted in accusations leveled against him. As one of the persons who were responsible for this distribution, according to laws passed in 1677 and 1680, he was accused of disrespecting these laws, by committing irregularities in this distribution and retaining about three-hundred natives to serve him in a clove plantation. These natives were possibly those he used to create the illegal village of Saint Gregory, perhaps in an effort to counteract the Jesuit monopoly of the missionary sector.

He died on March 12, 1689, after a prolonged illness, and was buried in the main chapel of the cathedral. When this one fell to ruins, his body was transferred to the Our Lady of the Light Church. Bernardo Pereira de Berredo, governor of the State of Maranhão who arrived in 1718, observed that the entire State mourned his passing. A unanimous opinion does not exist, however, and his work is polemical and subject to criticism. Among contemporary historians, Arlindo Rubert attests to his zeal and Mathias Kiemen condemns his shortcomings in administering the native community.

KIEMEN, Fr.Mathias,O.F.M., The Indian Policy of Portugal in the Amazon Region, 1614-1693, Nova York, 1973, p.172. LARCHER, Maria Madalena PESSÔA JORGE OUDINOT, Coesão e Revolta no Maranhão Seiscentista: os Conflitos entre Poderes Civis e Eclesiásticos in Rebelión y Resistencia en el Mundo Hispánico del Siglo XVII, Actas del Coloquio Internacional de Lovaina, Lovaina, 1992, p.192-204. Idem, La Structuration Diocesaine d'une Eglise Missionnaire: le Maranhão au XVIIe. Siècle, in Des Missions aux Éclises: Naissance et Passation des Pouvoirs, XVIIe-XXe siècles, Actes de la Xe Session du CREDIC (27-31 Aout 1989), apresentadas por Marc SPINDLER, Lião, 1990, p.54-83. Idem, Tensões Entre Episcopado e Clero Missionário na Amazónia na Transição do Século XVII para o XVIII, in Actas do Congresso Internacional de História da Missionação Portuguesa e Encontro de Culturas, 4 vs., Braga, 1993, v.III, p.671-697. Idem, A Vida Religiosa no Estado do Maranhão - A Diocese de S.Luís, da Fundação ao Desmembramento do Pará (1677-1720), doctoral thesis, Universidade Católica de lovaina, Louvai-la-Neuve, Dezembro de 1997 (policopiado). RUBERT, Arlindo, A Igreja no Brasil, 3 vs., Rio Grande do Sul, 1977-1988, v.II, p.179-181.

Author: Madalena Larcher
Translated by: Rosa Neves Simas

  Enviar a um amigo Send To Friend Imprimir Print