Fr General at Lifidzi and the home of the “Martyrs of Chapotera” in Mozambique

The second leg of Fr General’s visit to the Southern African Province takes him to Mozambique, where he visited the parish in Lifidzi and Ignatius of Loyola Secondary school or Escola Secundaria Inácio de Loyola (ESIL) in Nsaladzi. Father Sosa also went to Chapotera, located about six kilometers from the mission of Lifidzi, in the north of the diocese of Tete. This site has become famous as the place linked to the two Jesuit “Martyrs of Chapotera” whose cause for beatification is ongoing. It was the opportunity for the Superior General to learn in more details the story of his two Jesuit companions,João de Deus Gonçalves Kamtedza, a Mozambican, and Silvio Alves Moreira from Portugal, whose death dates back to 30 October 1985. It is in Chapotera that they met their tragic end.

The Martyrs of Chapotera

The “Martyrs of Chapotera” as they are locally referred to, were killed in the context of the civil war that devastated Mozambique for over 15 years. The long and bloody conflict between the ruling party, FRELIMO (Mozambique Liberation Front), and the rebel group, RENAMO (Mozambican National Resistance) caused a huge amount of damage and suffering, including the displacement of millions of people and the deaths of hundreds of thousands. The Christian communities were not spared from the harrowing effects of the war.

Father General prayer in Chapotera.

Father General praying in Chapotera.

On 20 November 2021 – 36 years later – the Shrine of Nossa Senhora de Conceição, Tete diocese, hosted a historic event for the local Church: the opening session of the cause for the beatification of the two priests. From January 2022 to June 2023, a commission, appointed by Bishop Dom Diamantino Guapo Antunes of Tete, conducted interviews of individuals who are contemporaries of the two Jesuits, and the testimonies of these people provided insights into their lives and martyrdom. The next step in the beatification process involves submitting the information gathered to the representative of the Apostolic Nunciature in Mozambique, Bishop Paul Anthony, who would subsequently forward it to the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints for further examination.

FrJoão, born 8 March, 1930, in Angonia, Tete Province, entered the Society of Jesus in 1948 and was ordained a priest on 15 August 1964 in the Lifidzi mission. His dedication to the evangelization of his people took him to various missions, including Msaladzi, Fonte Boa, and Satémwa, where he wholeheartedly embraced the culture, language, and spirituality of the local communities. In 1983 he moved to Chapotera where he continued to provide pastoral care to the Lifidzi and Chabwalo Missions.

Born on 16 April 1941 in Rio Meão-Vila da Feira, Portugal, FrSilvio joined the Jesuits in 1952. After his studies in theology at the Catholic University of Lisbon from 1968 to 1972, he was ordained a priest in Covilhã, Portugal, on 30 July 1972. Father Moreira then began his missionary journey in the Diocese of Tete, working initially at the Zóbuè seminary and later in the parish of Matundo. In 1981 he moved to Maputo, serving primarily in the parish of Amparo in Matola. He returned to the Diocese of Tete in September 1984 taking on responsibilities in Satemwa, Fonte Boa Mission, and finally the Lifidzi Mission in Chapotera.

Father General and faithful at Vila Ulónguè Cemetery.

FrJoão worked in Angónia while Fr Silvio worked as a teacher in the diocesan Seminary of Zóbuè, Tete. In 1984, both priests were in Chapotera from where they began their missionary activity throughout the territory of the former mission of Lifidzi, before they were killed in 1985.

The Lifidzi mission was founded on 2 January 1909. Its pioneer priests set out on a mission to educate the local communities as well as evangelize them. The great achievement of the mission was the construction of the Church called Akufa adzaua (the dead will rise) which was inaugurated on 7 December 1959. In addition, the Jesuit team build the residency for the priests and sisters and also a maternity. Unfortunately, In 1979, the mission was abandoned.

Presently, there are three priests in the Lifidzi Community. The parish boasts of about 37,560 Catholics with 26 outstations and 84 communities. Chabwalo has 17,300 Catholics with 12 outstations and 23 communities. Apart from the pastoral work, the Lifidzi community is involved in promoting agriculture in order to help the community to become self-reliant. There are even future plans to reopen a canal which was built by the Jesuits long ago to help overcome challenges with irrigation.

For the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, these visits to the sites where evangelization and development have been promoted together is always an occasion to support his companions and their fellow workers in mission. When, as it is the case in Chapotera, it also evokes the ultimate gift of their lives in martyrdom of Jesuit companions, it is also a source of strength for his own ministry.

Look at the photo gallery of the site of the Martyrs of Chapotera and other places which Father General visited.

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