On Thursday, Pope Francis canonized 30 new Brazilian saints. Dutch colonizers massacred the group of devout Catholics in the country’s northeastern region back in 1645. The massacre occurred in what is today the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
The future saints include priests André de Soveral and Ambrósio Francisco Ferro, as well as the beloved layman Mateus Moreira. Killed for their refusal to convert to Calvinism, the group went down in history as Brazil’s first religious martyrs. The layman Mateus Moreira had his heart ripped out of his chest while chanting praises to the Lord. Two massacres occurred in separate occasions in which over 70 people died at the hands of Dutch and indigenous troops. However, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints only recognizes the more well-known names.
In 2000, then-Pope John Paul II blessed the group of 30 martyrs. The Brazilian Cardinal Claúdio Hummes, former archbishop of Fortaleza, brought forth the case of the martyrs.
“We are really happy, because this canonization presents a great blessing for the church and certainly will revive the faith of our followers,” said Jaime Vieira Rocha, the archbishop of Natal, capital of Rio Grande do Sul.
In Thursday’s decree, Pope Francis also canonized five child saints: three Mexican child martyrs of Tlaxcala and the Portuguese siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto.
Currently, Brazil has 6 saints and 81 blessed by the church. Of the 6 saints, Santa Paulina and São José de Anchieta were born in Europe. Friar Galvão was born in Brazil. And the saints São Roque Gonzales, Santo Afonso Rodrigues e São João de Castilho were also martyred in Rio Grande do Sul.