José Tolentino de Mendonça

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José Tolentino de Mendonça
Librarian and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church
Cardeal De Mendonça.jpg
Cardinal de Mendonça on 6 October 2019.
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
Appointed1 September 2018
PredecessorJean-Louis Bruguès, O.P.
Other postsCardinal-Deacon of Santi Domenico e Sisto (2019-)
Ordination28 July 1990
by Teodoro de Faria
Consecration28 July 2018
by Manuel III, Cardinal-Patriarch of Lisbon
Created cardinal5 October 2019
by Pope Francis
Personal details
Birth nameJosé Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça
Born (1965-12-15) 15 December 1965 (age 53)
Machico, Madeira, Portugal
OccupationWriter, academic, administrator
Previous postTitular Archbishop of Suava (2018-19)
Alma mater
MottoConsiderate lilia agri - Mt 6,28
Coat of armsCoat of arms of José Tolentino Mendonça (cardinal).svg

José Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça, or simply José Tolentino de Mendonça (born 15 December 1965), is a Portuguese prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. An archbishop since July 2018, he has been Archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church since 1 September 2018. A theologian and university professor, he is also regarded as one of the most original voices of modern Portuguese literature and a Catholic intellectual. His work includes poetry, essays and plays.

Pope Francis raised him to the rank of cardinal on 5 October 2019.


The youngest of five children, José Tolentino de Mendonça was born on the island of Madeira, Portugal on 15 December 1965. He spent his earliest years in Angola, in several coastal towns where his father was a fisherman. He left Africa at the age of nine when Portugal withdrew from its African colonies.[1] In 1989, he graduated with the equivalent of a bachelor's degree in theology from the Portuguese Catholic University (UCP). That same year he published his first book of poems, Os Dias Contados.[1] He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Funchal, Madeira, on 28 July 1990.[2] In 1992, he was awarded a master's degree in biblical sciences at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. In 2004, he earned a doctorate in biblical theology at the Portuguese Catholic University (UCP).[2]

He has fulfilled pastoral assignments, first of all at the parish of Nossa Senhora do Livramento in Funchal from 1992 to 1995, then as chaplain at the UCP for 5 years. He next served the parish of Santa Isabel in Lisbon and then became rector of the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Bonanza, better known as Capela do Rato, in 2010.[3][4]

José Tolentino de Mendonça's assignments following his ordination included academic appointments as a lecturer at the diocesan seminary of Funchal, the rector of the Pontifical Portuguese College in Rome, and a lecturer at the Portuguese Catholic University. He was visiting professor the Catholic University of Pernambuco (Unicap), Brazil, the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and the Jesuit School of Philosophy and Theology of Belo Horizonte (Faje).[2] In Lisbon, he joined the UCP faculty as an assistant (1996-1999), assistant professor (2005-2015), and associate professor. The UCP appointed him Vice-Rector in 2012 and Dean of the Faculty of Theology in 2018.[5] During the academic year 2011-12, he was a Straus Fellow at New York University, joining an international team of researchers working on the theme "Religion and Public Reason".[3][6]

Tolentino de Mendonça was the first director of the National Secretariat of the Pastoral Ministry of Culture from 2004 to 2014, an institution created by the Portuguese Episcopal Conference to promote dialogue between the Church and the broader cultural milieu of the country.[7]

After attending a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI bringing together a large number of artists in 2009, he said that the Pope's gesture of hospitality was appreciated. Benedict pointed out that "within the Church, within the Christian space, they have their home, a sort of homeland".[8] In 2011 Benedict XVI appointed him a consulter of the Pontifical Council for Culture.[9] Pope Francis reappointed him to this position in 2016.

In 2018 Pope Francis invited Tolentino de Mendonça to preach the Lenten Retreat of the Roman Curia.[10][11] Besides the Bible, his comments referenced many writers, such as Fernando Pessoa, Roland Barthes, Clarice Lispector, Françoise Dolto, Etty Hillesum and Blaise Pascal. He commented: "Sometimes writers are important spiritual masters."[1] He also mentioned that he tells his biblical students that "a biblical scholar or a priest must see many movies, listen to a lot of music and get in touch with the arts world." These sermons were published under the title Elogio da Sede with a preface by Pope Francis.[12]

At the end of June 2018, Pope Francis named José Tolentino de Mendonça Vatican archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church as of September 1 and appointed him titular archbishop of Suava.[2] On July 28, Bishop Manuel Clemente, Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, consecrated him a bishop assisted by Cardinal António Marto, Bishop of Leiria-Fátima, and Teodoro de Faria, Bishop Emeritus of Funchal who had ordained him a priest in July 1990.[13]

Archbishop José Tolentino de Mendonça, Belém, 28.07.2018

José Tolentino de Mendonça has published numerous collections of essays, spiritual writings, poems and sermons. This work addresses the major themes of the Christian canon by placing them in dialogue with life. The relationship between Christianity and culture is at the heart of his writings. As a theologian and religious thinker, he has sought to discover spiritual life in places which have not always been looked at, and he has striven to encourage the Church to be more relevant and more engaged there. His books have been great successes in Portugal and are increasingly translated and published abroad. He has received numerous literary prizes and awards.[14][15][16][17]

Archbishop José Tolentino de Mendonça, July 2018
Father José Tolentino de Mendonça at Capela do Rato, 22 July 2018

On 5 October 2019, Pope Francis made him Cardinal Deacon and granted him the church of Santi Domenico e Sisto in Rome.[18]


in Portuguese[edit]

  • ‘’Os dias contados’’ (poetry, 1990)
  • ‘’As estratégias do desejo: um discurso bíblico sobre a sexualidade’’ (essay, 1994)
  • ‘’Longe não sabia’’ (poetry, 1997)
  • ‘’A que distância deixaste o coração (poetry, 1998)
  • ‘’Se eu quiser falar com Deus (1996)
  • ‘’Baldios’’ (poetry, 1999)
  • ‘’Cântico dos Cânticos’’ (1999)
  • ‘’De Igual para Igual’’ (poetry, 2000)
  • ’’A construção de Jesus: uma leitura narrativa de Lucas 7,36-50’’ (essay, 2004)
  • ‘’A estrada branca’’ (poetry, 2005)
  • ’’Perdoar Helena’’ (play, 2005)
  • ‘’Tábuas de pedra’’ (poetry, 2006)
  • ‘’A noite abre os meus olhos’’ (poetry, 2006)
  • ‘’A leitura infinita. Bíblia e interpretação’’ (essay,2008)
  • ‘’O Viajante sem sono’’ (poetry, 2009)
  • ‘’Histórias escolhidas da Bíblia’’ (2009)
  • ‘’O tesouro escondido’’ (essay, 2011)
  • ‘’Um deus que dança’’ (essay, 2011)
  • ‘’Pai-nosso que estais na terra’’ (essay, 2011)
  • ‘’Nenhum caminho será longo’’ (essay, 2012)
  • ‘’O hipopótamo de Deus’’ (essay, 2013)
  • ‘’Os rostos de Jesus’’ (2013)
  • ‘’A papoila e o monge’’ (poetry, 2013)
  • ’’O estado do bosque’’ (poetry, 2013)
  • ‘’A mística do instante’’ (essay, 2014)
  • ‘’A leitura infinita’’ (essay, 2014)
  • ‘’Estação central’’ (poetry, 2015)
  • ‘’Que coisa são as nuvens’’ (a selection of the best stories published by the weekly Expresso, 2015)
  • ‘’Esperar contra toda a esperança’’ (essay, 2015)
  • ‘’Desporto, ética e transcendência’’ (essay, 2015)
  • ‘’A construção de Jesus’’ (essay, 2015)
  • ‘’Corrigir os que erram’’ (essay, 2016)
  • ‘’Teoria da fronteira’’ (poetry, 2017)
  • ‘’O pequeno caminho das grandes perguntas‘’ (essay, 2017)
  • ‘’Elogio da sede’’ (essays delivered at the Lenten retreat preached before the pope and the Roman Curia, 2018)[19]
  • ‘’Requiem pela Aurora de Amanhã’’ (libretto for a work composed by João Madureira marking the centenary of the end of World War I; it premiered on 20 July 2018 in the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém.)[20]
  • ‘’Uma Beleza que nos Pertence (Aforismos)‘’ (essay, 2019)

in English[edit]

  • Hidden Treasure: The Art of Searching Within (Alba House, 2014)
  • Our Father who Art on Earth: The Lord's Prayer for Believers and Unbelievers (Paulist Press, 2013)
  • No Journey Will Be Too Long: Friendship in Christian Life (Paulist Press, 2015)
  • Religion and Culture in the Process of Global Change: Portuguese Perspectives, with co-editors Alfredo Teixeira, Alexandre Palma (Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change, Series VIII, Vol. 19, Council for Research in Values & Philosophy, 2016)
  • Jesus and the Woman: Revealing God's Mercy (Paulist Press, 2017)
  • Thirst: Our Desire for God, God's Desire for Us (Paulist Press, 2019), retreat preached before the Pope and the Roman Curia during Lent 2018

Honours and Awards[edit]

  • Laureate of Prémio Cidade de Lisboa de Poesia (1998)
  • PEN Clube Português Award (2005)[23]
  • Inês de Castro Foundation Literary Award (2009)[24]
  • Finalist of the Casino da Póvoa Literary Award (2011)[25]
  • Top 100 Most Influential Portuguese of 2012, by Jornal Expresso (2012)
  • Finalist of the Casino da Póvoa Literary Award (2015)[26]
  • Literary Award Res Magnae (Italy, 2015)[27]
  • Grand Award APE/CM of Loulé - for "Que coisa são as nuvens" (2016)
  • Grande Poetry Award Teixeira de Pascoaes (2016) for "A noite abre os meus olhos"[28]
  • Capri-San Michele Special Award (Italy, 2017)
  • A life of ... passion Award (Italy, Avvenire, 2018)[29]
  • In June 2019, the weekly magazine of Expresso included Tolentino de Mendonça on its list of the fifty "mighty, influent, inovative, provocative and consacrated people who marked our life during the past year".[30]
  • Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has chosen him to preside over the ceremonies marking Portugal Day in June 2020.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Borga, Marcos (26 June 2018). "Tolentino Mendonça: O poeta que o Papa quis ouvir" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d "Resignations and Appointments, 26.06.2018" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 26 June 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b "José Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça" (pdf). (in Portuguese). Retrieved 25 July 2018.[dead link]
  4. ^ "Bem-Vindos à Capela do Rato". (in Portuguese). Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  5. ^ "Padre Jose Tolentino Mendonca novo director da faculdade de teologia" (in Portuguese).
  6. ^ "2011-2012 Fellows". New York University Law School. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  7. ^ "Em louvor de Tolentino Mendonça" (in Portuguese).
  8. ^ "Priest-Poet Evaluates Pope's Meeting With Artists". Zenit. 27 November 2009. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  9. ^ "El sacerdote y poeta José Tolentino Mendonça, nombrado Consultor del Pontificio Consejo de la Cultura" (in Portuguese). Hijas de San Pablo. 19 December 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  10. ^ "Pope chooses Portuguese priest-poet to lead Lenten retreat". Crux. Catholic News Service. 29 January 2018. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  11. ^ "Pope's Spiritual Exercises: Despite Our Being 'Incomplete' & 'Under Construction,' Jesus Offers Us Unconditional Love". Zenit. 19 February 2018. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  12. ^ Gomes, João Francisco (22 April 2018). "Tolentino Mendonça: 'Achava que tinha sonhado que o Papa me tinha convidado para orientar o retiro'". El Observador (in Portuguese). Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  13. ^ Gomes, João Francisco (28 July 2018). "Arcebispo Tolentino Mendonça continua a ser poeta. "Para mim não há diferença entre uma biblioteca e um jardim"". Observador (in Portuguese). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  14. ^ António Lobo Antunes (10 May 2018). "Zé Tolentino". (in Portuguese). Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  15. ^ Martins, Rui Jorge (9 October 2014). "Livros, poesia, encontros: José Tolentino Mendonça entre Macau, Paris e Lisboa". (in Portuguese). Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  16. ^ "José Tolentino Mendonça propõe o silêncio a Património Imaterial da Humanidade". (in Portuguese). 24 February 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  17. ^ "José Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça". Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda (in Portuguese). 10 May 2018. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  18. ^ "Concistoro Ordinario Pubblico: Assegnazione dei Titoli, 05.10.2019" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 5 October 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  19. ^ Correia, José Frazão (27 April 2018). "Elogio da Sede, Apresentação do Livro de José Tolentino Mendonça". Ponto SJ. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  20. ^ Fernandes, Cristina (28 July 2018). "A guerra e a paz em novas criações musicais". Público (in Portuguese). Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  21. ^ "Jose Tolentino Mendonça, poeta, professor e cardeal". Porto Canal (in Portuguese). 1 September 2019. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  22. ^ "Jose Tolentino Mendonça". Quetzal Editores (in Portuguese). Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  23. ^ "Pen Clube atribui varios premios exaequo". (in Portuguese). 27 October 2005. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  24. ^ "Prémio Ines de Castro para Tolentino Mendonça". (in Portuguese). 30 January 2010. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  25. ^ "Prémio literário Casino da Póvoa". (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  26. ^ "Trezes obras de poesia finalistas ao premio literario Casino da Póvoa-2015". (in Portuguese). 9 January 2015. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  27. ^ "Autor Português recebe prémio literario". (in Portuguese). 19 November 2015. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  28. ^ "Jose Tolentino Mendonca vence grande premio de poesia teixeira de pascoaes". (in Portuguese). 18 November 2016. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  29. ^ Martins, Rui Jorge (1 September 2018). "D. José Tolentino Mendonça recebe prémio do jornal italiano Avvenire e fala sobre 'Rostos e estilos de vida dos crentes'". Pastoral da Cultura (in Portuguese). Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  30. ^ "Os consagrados de Portugal". Expresso (in Portuguese). 30 June 2019. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  31. ^ Petinga, Tiago (24 July 2019). "Marcelo escolhe Tolentino Mendonça para presidir às comemorações do 10 de Junho de 2020". Expresso (in Portuguese). Lusa. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
Additional sources

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Jean-Louis Bruguès
Librarian of the Holy Roman Church
1 September 2018 – present
Succeeded by
Archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives
1 September 2018 – present