Recently, while on the airplane flying Lisbon to our now hometown Paris, we read a surprisingly good article in the TAP Up magazine recalling the story of the Father Antonio Vieira (1608-1697). A Portuguese Jesuit philosopher and writer, Vieira grew up the North East of Brazil and spent his life travelling as a missionary and a diplomatic between Brazil and Portugal. He was gifted with excellent oratory and writing skills to the point that Fernando Pessoa called him the “Emperor of the Portuguese language”.
Father Vieira was a visionary priest whose sermons delivered strong criticisms of slavery and of the Church’s treatment of the indigenous peoples. He advocated for the abolition of the distinction between Old and New Christians and for a reform of the Inquisition’s procedures. As such, he led the first attempt to close the Holy Office’s Inquisition in Portugal between 1675 and 1681. Not surprisingly, given his revolutionary and loud opinions, he was almost expelled from the Society of Jesus.
Also interesting (especially for the lusophones), Father Vieira advocated for the establishment of the ‘Fifth Empire’ (Quinto Império) – a spiritual concept that was later famously developed by Fernando Pessoa in his book The Message.
Reading the Up article made us realise that this amazing character of the Lusophone culture is not as known as he would deserve. Ands the Britannica Encyclopaedia states, “Though his prose style, in its ornateness, Latinisms, and elaborate conceits, is a product of the Old World, his works are of the New World in their emotional freedom, boldness of thought, and advanced attitude of racial tolerance”.