Inácio de Azevedo
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Blessed Inácio de Azevedo
|Jesuit missionary and martyr|
Porto, Kingdom of Portugal
|Died||July 15, 1570 (aged 42–43)|
Atlantic Ocean, near the Canary islands
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||11 May 1854 by Pope Pius IX|
His full name was Inácio de Azevedo de Ataíde e Abreu Malafaia and he was born in the city of Porto into a wealthy family of the Portuguese nobility, being the eldest son of Dom Manuel de Azevedo and Dona Francisca de Abreu. One of his younger brothers, Dom Jerónimo de Azevedo, was Viceroy of Portuguese India from 1612 to 1617.
He was educated at the Portuguese court of King John III and at the age of 18 he became administrator of his family's estate. However, after attending the sermons and speeches of Jesuit priest Francisco Estrada he decided to renounce all his possessions, including his rights to the feudal lordship of the honra e quinta de Barbosa, in the northern Portuguese province of Entre Douro e Minho.
In 1548 he made an irrevocable choice of a religious life and entered the Society of Jesus where he was finally ordained in 1553. In 1565 Saint Francis Borgia charged him with full powers for the inspection of the Jesuit missions in the Portuguese colony of Brazil, a task that took him nearly 3 years to accomplish. He arrived in Bahia in August, 1566 and he proceeded to visit all the Jesuit missions in Brazil. He nominated Father Manuel da Nóbrega Provincial for Brazil and with Nóbrega and Blessed José de Anchieta he visited the missions in the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro whose foundations were then being laid. He thus spent two years of his life in Brazil.
In October 1568 he was back in Lisbon and in May 1569 he proceeded to Rome to report to Pope Pius V and Saint Francis Borgia. In his final report, Inácio de Azevedo asked for more people to be sent to the missions and Saint Francis Borgia thus ordered him to recruit new elements for the Jesuits in Brazil. Then, after several months of intense preparations that included meetings with King Sebastian of Portugal, Azevedo and his companions finally left Portugal for Brazil on the merchant vessel Santiago on 5 June 1570, while another group of more than 20 companions boarded the military fleet of the newly appointed Governor General of Brazil.
During the trip to Brazil, on July 15, 1570 while sailing near the Canary Islands, the Santiago was attacked and captured by a fleet led by French Huguenot corsair Jacques de Sores off Fuencaliente Lighthouse. Following the capture, Azevedo and his 39 companions were massacred.
The Forty Martyrs of Brazil were blessed by Pope Pius IX on 11 May 1854. In 1999 40 concrete crosses at the place of martyrdom, about 200 meters off the Fuencaliente lighthouse were placed on the seabed by the government of the island La Palma. This place is situated in a depth of about 20 meters and is today a popular diving destination. Adjacent to the old tower, an other monument for the Forty Martyrs of Brazil has been erected in October 2014. This monument is a stone cross, with a plate on which the names of the martyrs are engraved.