Oery City of
20th November, 1952.
“I have been informed of the fervent zeal that burns in the breast of your Holiness to spread the Holy Faith in these parts which, because they have not been watered by the blood of Jesus Christ or any Apostle or Saint, are deprived of the Light of the Faith.
Also I have heard that to remedy this, Your Holiness dispatched a Mission of Fathers called Capuchins to the Kingdom of Benin, a people neighbouring mine, who rejected the favour offered them and expelled the Fathers from their Kingdom; nor did they tell the Fathers anything about me and my Kingdom.
I truly believe, Holy Father that Your Holiness intended these Priests to come to me judging by their information, that the King of Benin was a Christian who desired Ministers of the Gospel.
I am that King and my Kingdom is on the same Coast adjoining Benin and distinguished from it only by the fact that mine is called OERY. Such is my need of disinterested Ministers to spread the Faith in my Kingdom that it has almost gone to perdition, for it is more than Seven years since a Priest has been here and those who used to visit came only once a year and remained only so long as the penance from Sao Time was trading here.
I wondered that none came for so long: they tell me that they have no Bishop in Sao Tome and so few Priests that they are in almost the same straits as myself”
I leave to Your Holiness to imagine how many are falling away from the Faith. I am acting as a Preacher myself, as far as I am able, urging my Subjects to trust in the Mercy of God that all will soon be set in order. This can only be done, I believe, by Your Holiness, I beg you therefore by the Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ to come to my aid and send me a Mission of Capuchin Fathers who because they are disinterested (as I am informed) will do great good to me and my Kingdom.
As a Faithful Christian, I Kneel and Kiss the feet of Your Holiness, and like other Christian Kings, I offer to Your Holiness the obedience of myself and my Kingdom, and not to Your Holiness alone but to all who shall afterwards be elected canonically to that dignity.
Again, I beg Your Holiness to send me the Fathers as soon as possible and if possible, to instruct the Prefect of the Fathers in Portugal to see that every year some Priests are sent with the Ships that come from Lisbon to Sao Tome, and from there to my Kingdom to trade.
I will give them all the help in my power and reliable interpreters so that they may bring my neighbour, the King of Benin, and others to the Faith. I beseech Your Holiness to send me some relics for myself and my Kingdom.
“I am writing to my Cousin King John of Portugal asking him to help me by assisting the Fathers with their passage and the necessary provisions. I believe he will do this for the Portuguese have often done me favours; also, because they introduced the Faith into my Kingdom and my forebear King Dom Domingo’s married a Portuguese Lady, I hold them in great brotherly affection.”
The letter to the Pope however did not fall into inactive hands. Although the Pope was well aware of the basic conflict between the Spaniards and the Portuguese, the Vatican at first thought that some Spanish Missionaries might be sent.
When it became clear that the Portuguese would not tolerate this it was decided that Italians should be sent instead. This was how Father Angelo Maria d’ Masaccio went with Father Bonaventura da Fierenze to Warri in 1682.
These Missionaries were surprised to see an educated ruler, better bred than the ordinary, a man brought up by the Portuguese, of whose language he was an absolute master, and who could besides read and write, ” a qualification unusual among these Ethiopian (African) Princes”
Who compel his Subjects to comply with their directives and requests, and to be provided with a White Woman as some of his predecessors have been.
Father Angelo was taken by surprise at this request. He and his companion went at once to the Portuguese Island of Sao Tome to make some enquiries. It was not long before they were told of a Half-Caste Woman who was well educated and would be willing to go.
As far as they were concerned, she was white enough for their purpose and they sent word to the Olu that they were returning on a particular day with the Bride.