Martyrs of Chapotera: Mozambique celebrates two peace-loving servants of God

The cause for beatification of two Jesuit priests who died as martyrs during the civil war in Mozambique is proceeding, with the diocesan phase coming to a close and the dossier being sent to Rome.

By Francesca Merlo

Hundreds of Catholics from various parishes across the Diocese of Tete, Mozambique, gathered for Mass on 12 August at the diocesan Shrine of Zobuè to honor and remember two remarkable individuals: Father João de Deus Kamtedza and Father Silvio Alves Moreira, revered as the “Martyrs of Chapotera.”

This event marked the conclusion of the Diocesan phase in the cause for their beatification and canonization.

Words from the Bishop

In his homily, Bishop Diamantino Guapo Antunes of Tete praised the two Servants of God as exceptional pastors who shared the suffering of their people, tirelessly sought peace and reconciliation, and dedicated their human and spiritual qualities to the service of God and humanity.

The Bishop’s words resonated deeply with the faithful who had come to remember them.

The beatification process

The cause for beatification started on 20 November 2021 and included an extensive inquiry led by a commission appointed by the Bishop of Tete.

From January 2022 to June 2023, the commission meticulously interviewed contemporary witnesses who had known Father João de Deus Kamtedza and Father Silvio Alves Moreira during their lifetimes.

These individuals provided valuable insights into the lives, martyrdom, and reputation of these two Servants of God. The gathered testimonies, along with archival documents, were compiled into a comprehensive dossier spanning 1,500 pages.

The next step in the beatification process involved sealing the dossier and sending it in sealed containers to the representative of the Apostolic Nunciature in Mozambique, Bishop Paul Anthony. Bishop Anthony would subsequently forward the dossier to the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican for further examination.

Story of the martys

The poignant story of these two Jesuit priests dates back to 30 October 1985 when they met a tragic fate near their mission house in Chapotera, Mozambique.

Father João de Deus Gonçalves Kamtedza, a native of Mozambique, was born on 8 March, 1930 in Angonia within the province of Tete. He entered the Jesuit seminary in 1948, took his religious vows in Braga, Portugal, in 1953 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.

Father Silvio Alves Moreira, born on 16 April 1941 in Rio Meão-Vila da Feira, Portugal, entered the Jesuit seminary in 1952 and professed his religious vows in 1959. After theological studies at the Catholic University of Lisbon from 1968 to 1972, he was ordained a priest in Covilhã, Portugal, on 30 July 1972. Father Moreira began his missionary journey in the Diocese of Tete, working initially at the Zobuè 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 roles in Satemwa, Fonte Boa Mission, and finally the Lifidzi Mission in Chapotera.

Father Silvio was known for his courageous and enterprising spirit, his passion for missionary life, and his ability to find joy even amid its hardships and risks. Tragically, on 30 October 1985 he and Father João de Deus Kamtedza fell victim to the long and bloody civil war that afflicted the people of Mozambique and its Catholic communities.