Venerable Diego Luis de San Vitores
Svitores Guam.jpg
The assassination of Padre San Vitores in 1672 by Mata'pang and Hurao. The painting portrays San Vitores as a mean, tyrant-like priest, in a representation typical of the anti-Spanish Black Legend
Born November 12, 1627, Spain
Died April 2, 1672, Guam
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified October 6, 1985, Vatican
Feast October 6

Venerable Diego Luis de San Vitores (1627-1672) was a Spanish Jesuit missionary who founded the first Catholic church on the island of Guam. He is responsible for establishing the Spanish presence in the Mariana Islands.

Early life

A son of a nobleman, he was baptized Diégo Jeronimo de San Vitores y Alonso de Maluendo. His parents attempted to persuade him to pursue a military career, but San Vitores instead chose to follow his religious interests. In 1640, he became a Jesuit novitiate and was ordained a priest in 1651. Believing his calling was to serve as a missionary to non-Christians, San Vitores was granted his request and assigned to a mission in Manila, Philippines.

In 1662, San Vitores, stopped in Guam on the way to the Philippines and vowed to return. Three years later, through his close ties to the royal court, he persuaded King Philip IV of Spain and Queen Maria Ana of Austria to order a mission in Guam be established.

Mission to Guam

While in Mexico en route to Guam, San Vitores had difficulty encouraging the Spanish Viceroy to fund his mission. However, in 1668, Padre Diego Luis de San Vitores set sail from Acapulco to Guam. San Vitores named the Chamorro archipelago, "Islas Marianas" (Mariana Islands) in honor of the Queen Regent of Spain, Maria Ana of Austria, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The missionary landed on Guam in the village of Hagåtña and was greeted by Chief Kepuha. Kepuha's family donated land to establish the first Catholic mission on Guam. On February 2, 1669 Padre San Vitores established the first Catholic Church in Hagåtña and dedicated it to the sweet name of Mary, "Dulce Nombre de Maria."

After Chief Kepuha's death in 1669, Spanish missionary and Chamorro Nobility relations worsened and the Chamorro - Spanish War began in 1671 led by Chief Hurao. After several attacks on the Spanish mission, a peace was negotiated. Though San Vitores chose to emulate Saint Francis Xavier, who did not use soldiers in his missionization efforts in India, as his model priest, he recognized that a military presence would be necessary to protect the priests serving Guam. In 1672, San Vitores ordered Churches built in four villages, including Merizo. Later that year, Chamorro resistance increased, led by Makahnas and Kakahnas (indigenous priests and priestesses) from the Chamorri (high caste) who would lose their leadership position and status under a Roman Catholic mission organization and male dominated Spanish society.

The Death of San Vitores

On April 2, 1672, Mata'pang and Hirao killed Padre San Vitores and his Visayan assistant, Pedro Calungsod. Padre San Vitores had baptized Mata'pang's daughter without the Chief's permission. Mata'pang's wife may have consented to the baptism, according to some accounts. Some records state that Mata'pang had believed holy water used in baptism had caused the recent deaths of babies due to European diseases.

The death of the Spanish mission leader led to Spanish army reprisals against Chamorro chiefs who had decided to defend their homeland from Spanish subjugation. Bounties were offered for these chiefs' decapitated heads and many were hunted down. Under Spanish military governors, Chamorros who were anti-Spanish were massacred in their villages. European plague and warfare eventually contributed to the defeat of the Chamorros. The Chamorro - Spanish Wars lasted more than 25 years.

See also

References and external links

  • Rogers, Robert F (1995). Destiny's Landfall: A History of Guam: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0-8248-1678-1
  • Carter, Lee D; Carter, Rosa Roberto; Wuerch, William L (1997). Guam History: Perspectives Volume One: MARC. ISBN 1-878453-28-9
  • Risco, Alberto (1970). The apostle of the Marianas: The life, labors, and martyrdom of Ven. Diego Luis de San Vitores, 1627-1672:

Diocese of Agana. ASIN: B0006EOYJS

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