Mendez, Alphonso

Mendez, Alphonso a noted missionary of the Roman Catholic Church, flourished in Abyssinia in the early part of the 17th century. He was a Portuguese by birth, but we know little of his personal history disconnected from his labors in the East. He belonged to the Society of Jesus, and was created patriarch of the Abyssinians in 1626, by the emperor Suscenius, or Socinios, who, quite contrary to general practices, not only himself paid allegiance to the Roman pontiff, but also obliged his subjects to abandon the religious rites and tenets of their ancestors, and to embrace the doctrine and worship of the Rornish Church. Mendez, as patriarch, by his intemperate zeal, imprudence, and arrogance, ruined the cause in which he had embarked, and occasioned the total subversion of the Roman pontiff's authority and jurisdiction, which seemed to have been established upon solid foundations. " He began his ministry," says Mosheim (Ecclesiastes Hist., Harper's edit., 2:193), "with the most inconsiderate acts of violence and despotism. Following the spirit of the Spanish Inquisition, he employed formidable threatenings and cruel tortures to convert the Abyssinians; the greatest part of whom, together with their priests and ministers, held the religion of their ancestors in the highest veneration, and were willing to part with their lives and fortunes rather than forsake it. He also ordered those to be rebaptized who, in compliance with the orders of the emperor, had embraced the faith of Rome, as if their former religion had been nothing more than a system of paganism. Nor did the insolent patriarch rest satisfied with these arbitrary and despotic proceedings in the Church; he excited tumults and factions in the state, and, with an unparalleled spirit of rebellion and arrogance, encroached upon the prerogatives of the throne, and attempted to give law to the emperor himself. Hence arose civil commotions, conspiracies, and seditions, which excited in a little time the indignation of the emperor, and the hatred of the people against the Jesuits, and produced at length, in 1631, a public declaration from the throne, by which the Abyssinian monarch annulled the orders he had formerly given in favor of popery, and left his subjects at liberty either to persevere in the doctrine of their ancestors or to embrace the faith of Rome. This rational declaration was mild and indulgent toward the Jesuits, considering the treatment which their insolence and presumption had so justly deserved; but in the following reign much severer measures were employed against them. Basilides, or Facilidas, the son of Segued, who succeeded his father in 1632, thought it expedient to free his dominions from these troublesome and despotic guests, and accordingly, in 1634, he banished from his territories the patriarch Mendez, with all the Jesuits and Europeans who belonged to his retinue, and treated the Roman Catholic missionaries with excessive severity. From this period the very name of Rome, its religion, and its pontiff, were objects of the highest aversion among the Abyssinians." Le Grand, himself a Roman Catholic, makes the following remark upon the conduct of the patriarch Mendez: "It is to be wished that the patriarch had never intermeddled in such a variety of affairs" (by which mitigated expression the author means his ambitious attempts to govern in the cabinet as well as in the Church), "or carried his authority to such a height as to behave in Ethiopia as if he had been in a country where the Inquisition was established; for by this conduct he set all the people against him, and excited in them such an aversion to the Roman Catholics in general, and to the Jesuits in particular, as nothing has hitherto been able to diminish, and which subsists in full force to this day" (in the fourth dissertation subjoined to vol. ii of Lobo's Voyage d'Abyssinie, which the reader will do well to consult, especially p. 116, 130, 144). See also Ludolfi Histor. tithiopica, lib. iii, cap. xii; Geddes, Ch. Hist. of Ethiopia, p. 233; La Croze, Hist. du Christianisme d'Ethiopie, p. 79; Lockman; Travels of the Jesuits, 1:308 sq.- (J. HW.)

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