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Catholic Diocese to Initiate Sainthood Cause for Jesuits Murdered in Mozambican Civil War

Fr. Sílvio Moreira (right) and Fr. João de Deus Gonçalves Kamtedza (left) who died during the Mozambican civil war. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The leadership of Mozambique’s Catholic Diocese of Tete is set to initiate the sainthood causes of two members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) who were killed during the country’s civil war more than three decades ago.

“The Diocese of Tete in Mozambique will begin the process of canonization for two Jesuits killed in 1985 at Chapotera mission,” Bishop Diamantino Antunes of the Mozambican Diocese has been quoted as saying in a Monday, May 17 news report

Fr. Sílvio Moreira and Fr. João de Deus Gonçalves Kamtedza who died at the age of 44 and 54 respectively, were taken from their residence in Chapotera mission, Angonia District, within the Diocese of Tete by a group of armed men.

Fr Moreira, a native of Portugal, and Fr. Kamtedza, a Mozambican were reportedly assaulted, killed and their bodies dumped in a forest.

In the report published by Spotlight Africa, a communication ministry of the Jesuit Institute South Africa, Bishop Antunes says, “The Diocese believes in their martyrdom and will propose their canonization in a process set to begin on 14 August 2021.”

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The Bishop of Tete adds that the action to initiate the sainthood causes is motivated by “the impact the witness of these missionaries still has among the people.”

“I was impressed by the crowd that turned up for Mass. They explained to me that it was always like that, even when the Priests didn’t organize anything,” he says in reference to the 35th anniversary of their martyrdom and adds, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire and, in these cases, the fame is a sign that something important is behind this.”

According to the report, it is after the Eucharistic celebration that the Bishop approached the Council of Diocesan consultors and upon seeing the enthusiasm of Priests who knew the slain Jesuits, realized the need to advance the matter. 

The Portuguese-born Bishop consulted with the leadership of the Jesuits and members of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique before writing to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican.

While the perpetrators of the murders of the two Jesuits have never been identified, the Local Ordinary of Tete believes that the Priests were killed “because they denounced atrocities of the war, defended the dignity of the Angonian people and were, therefore, considered ‘inconvenient witnesses’ to the abuses of political and law enforcement authorities.” 

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“The crime did not have religious motivations. But martyrdom is not only about hatred of the faith but also of virtues linked to faith, such as justice or charity,” Bishop Antunes says in reference to the murder of the two Jesuit Priests.

The 64-year-old member of the Consolata Missionaries further describes the late Fr. Moreira and Fr. Kamtedza as “courageous, fearless and always fighting for the people.”

“The two missionaries chose to continue serving their church, even after they were advised to leave the region (by their Superiors) at a time when many religious were being kidnapped and killed,” Bishop Antunes recalls in the May 17 report by Spotlight Africa.

He further says that the two Jesuit Priests knew that if they left their mission, military personnel would attack the village and people, therefore, they chose to stay as “a form of security for everyone.”

The slain Jesuit Priests had been serving in Chapotera about a year before they were murdered.

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