Giovanni Antonio Solinas SJ, beatified in Argentina on 2 July 2022

They are known as the “Martyrs of Zenta”, a little-known region in north-west Argentina. Don Pedro Ortiz de Zárate, a diocesan priest, and Giovanni Antonio Solinas, a Jesuit originally from Sardinia, dedicated themselves body and soul to the evangelisation of the indigenous peoples during the time of the “Jesuit missions” in the second half of the 17th century. Other Christians, eighteen in all, also gave their lives in the context of this mission.

Born in 1643 in Sardinia, Giovanni Antonio Solinas first met the Jesuits in their college and received from them a solid cultural and religious formation. He chose to join the Society of Jesus as soon as he finished his studies. With Saint Francis Xavier as his inspiration, he dreamed of becoming a missionary in India, but immediately after being ordained to the priesthood, he was sent to Paraguay. There he worked for ten years in the famous “Reductions” that the Jesuits had set up to help the indigenous peoples to live better and in peace. Then he was sent to the Zenta Valley, today in the province of Salta in Argentina, to offer the Gospel to the indigenous Hohomás. It was there that he was martyred on 27 October 1683. From the moment of his tragic death, people spoke of his holiness both in the mission territories and in Sardinia.


The cause for the beatification of the two martyred priests, one diocesan and the other Jesuit, was carried out by the diocese of Orán under the responsibility of the postulator, Sister Isabel Fernández, of the Congregation of the Hermanas Educacionistas Franciscanas de Cristo Rey. She told us how much this task has affected her; here is her testimony.

“I am immensely pleased to offer this testimony. For me, a daughter of the Church, martyrdom is a sublime gift and the supreme proof of love, because a disciple freely accepts death to follow Jesus. As a daughter of this Argentinean land, I admire the men and women who gave their lives to build this nation and to sow the Gospel here.

The presence of the native peoples is ancient and very diverse. Their encounter with the Spaniards has been full of light and shadows, and these have been well studied of late. Despite the shadows, wonderful examples always emerge from the history of evangelisation.

It was a real challenge to study this martyrdom, which took place in 1683, in the remote valley of Zenta (Salta), but abundant civil and ecclesiastical documentation made it possible. The bishops of Nueva Orán, as well as historians and contemporary witnesses of the events, took an interest in this cause. My task was to encourage and guide the work of all of them, for which I am very grateful. In just a few years the diocesan and Roman phases of the cause were completed.


I was surprised to learn of the many indigenous ethnic groups in the region, their customs, and their difficulties and sufferings. Their relationship with the conquistadors was conflict-ridden, but I greatly value generous souls like Pedro Ortiz de Zárate, who loved the Indians and served them as administrator, mayor and then parish priest. There were friendly Indians who collaborated with him, but there were also others who were hostile for understandable reasons. Likewise, I admire the Jesuit missionaries like Father Solinas, who generously and selflessly shared everything with the Indians, sowing among them friendship, peace and the Word of God.

The arrival of the missionary community in the Chaco was a memorable event; it was made up of Creoles, Spaniards, Indians, blacks and mulattos, both men and women. Along with the two priests, eighteen other Christians dedicated their lives to living there and proclaiming the Gospel. Today the call of God to respect the native nations resounds once again, without prejudice to the apostolic zeal of the missionary disciples of Jesus. I believe it is still possible to generate a charismatic force for the Gospel and the salvation of humankind.”

In a future article, we will publish the message of Fr. Arturo Sosa, Superior General, on the occasion of the beatification of Fr. Giovanni Antonio Solinas, along with photos of the celebration in San Ramón de la Nueva Orán (Argentina).

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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