SANTA MARIA DE JESUS, D. Fr. José de (1670-1736)
14th bishop of Cape Verde.
He was born in Évora in 1670; he professed at the convent of Xabregas, where he became a Franciscan monk in 1694. He studied jurisprudence in the University of Coimbra, but it was in the seminar of Varatojo that he became known as guardian. He was presented to the Curia in 1720, confirmed in consistory on February 2, 1721, and was consecrated in the same year. He was part of the courtly circle of D. João V, who must have personally pressured him to accept the bishopric, a mission that this religious intended to decline. It must have been the king who ordered to send his friend a series of ornaments, canonicals and bells for the cathedral. He arrived at the diocese in December of that year. He corresponded with the diocesan chapter when he was still in Lisbon and asked permission to take 12 ordinands with him in order to provide for the most urgent needs of the islands, but very few were able to go with him because he did not obtain the financial resources for their passage and supplies. The picture that he found there was distressing: the only resource that existed was a teaching master, and there wasn?t a regular means of navigation to guide the priests to the various islands, and so many were without any spiritual assistance. The Portuguese priests simply fled for the kingdom without permission from the prelate. Not so much as one preacher existed, so the bishop had to assume this function. In a society in which the local elite had taken over the offices and had been taking sides in the disputes between governor and judge as a way of reducing royal intervention, the bishop, less persuadable because he was a devoted life long dignitary, was called to mediate a jurisdictional conflict between governor António Vieira and judge Manuel Carneiro Ramos, and both signed a declaration of friendship and accord at the Episcopal palace in 1722. Because the bishop had placed a Portuguese priest without any judicial formation in the position of vicar-general, a serious jurisdictional conflict occurred between the civil and ecclesiastical tribunals, resulting in this ecclesiastic being sentenced to prison and ordered to return to the kingdom. The bishop judged that his pastoral action would be beneficial if he left personally in visitation for the islands; however, he found that he was uncomfortable embarking on English ships without any guarantee of return passage. He visited Fogo, Brava, Maio, Boa Vista, S. Nicolau and Santo Antão. In Santiago the social and political conflict grew and many unprotected people sought refuge in the bishop?s shadow, so the bishop was accused of ?sheltering criminals.? Even the governor, Francisco Nóbrega de Vasconcelos, had to seek residence near the bishop, for he found himself abandoned and without support. To attempt to stem the manumissions and massive losses of slaves, the bishop ordered the publishing of a controversial pastoral letter that superceded past legislation on the subject and stated that any person from whom slaves fled pay 12,000 for each or deliver them to the ecclesiastical court when they are caught to be whipped openly in the streets by order of the same court. Even the diocesan chapter protested, having done pasquinades at the door of the cathedral and Episcopal palace, threatening to declare the cathedral vacant. The bishop didn?t have any other recourse but to withdraw from Ribeira Grande and take residence in Trindade. He had to fortify this property and protect it with armed slaves, and even then he was attacked by a rebel cleric whom the bishop suspended from his office. When an attempt was made to implement the law that prohibited the use of spears in Santiago, the bishop requested that he be allowed to possess those forbidden weapons. In Trindade, the bishop took up his position teaching several local ordinands, whom he later placed in the parishes, since the teachers of grammar and moral theology no longer gave lessons due to lack of payment. The bishop limited his pastoral to the island of Santiago, but he was prevented from leaving in visitation several times. When he finally managed to leave, he accused several of the principals of concubinage, incest and slave theft, but he never managed to sentence them, much less get the help of the seculars. In 1731, D. Fr. José de Santa Maria de Jesus sent to the kingdom a census of the population that had been ordered by the king, but it took more than five years to compile all the information that came from the various islands. In the same year he informed the kingdom that he intended to visit the Rivers of Guinea in order to secretly verify a subject that had tormented him since the beginning of his bishopric, which was to inquire about the ?scruples? and the ?title? of the slaves acquired there, with the opinion that this could not be made in a way that was as indifferent as was originally practiced. Such a trip with an uncommon purpose was seen as inconvenient by the procurator of the Crown, with the view that the bishop should not be involved in such sensitive matters. In 1732 the bishop went to the bordering continent, having become blind in Farim. On the return trip to Santiago, the vessel broke the rudder, and he reached Baía. In 1735, the bishop returned to Lisbon and withdrew to the convent of Xabregas where he died in June of 1736. He composed the work Brados do Bom Pastor às suas ovelhas [Cries of the Good Shepherd to His Sheep]. It was published in Lisbon in 1731 and reprinted in 1735.
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. 686-687.
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. 375-389.
TAVARES, Pedro Vilas Boas, ?Hora e imagens da morte na pastoral missionária: os brados do bispo de Cabo Verde, D. Fr. José de Santa Maria de Jesus, 1731?, Porto, Faculdade de Letras, sep. da Revista da Faculdade de Letras, Línguas e Literaturas, anexo VIII, 10997, pp. 237-255.
Author: Maria João Soares
Translated by: John Starkey