Fr Juan Antonio Solinas (Giovanni Antonio Solinas) was born on 15 February 1643 in the village of Oliena, on the island of Sardinia, now part of Italy. On 12 June 1663 he entered the Society of Jesus in Cagliari. Having completed his theological studies, and after his ordination in Seville in 1673, the following year, together with three other Sardinian Jesuits, he was sent to the old Province of Paraguay. After his tertianship in Santa Fe, he was first sent to the Guarani reduction of Santa Ana and then to Itapúa.
Moved by their desire to evangelize, the Jesuits had set out to find a way to link the villages of Chiquitania (in Bolivia) to their other missions, extending as far as the borders of Patagonia. But the Chaco region which stretches from southern Bolivia to north-western Argentina, became a greater apostolic challenge. Juan A. Solinas had stated that he was willing to evangelize these groups and stay with them, not abandoning them, giving them “the necessary food and all other possible assistance”. Indeed, according to the testimony of a contemporary, Solinas, who was self-effacing, accustomed to suffering, docile and gentle in character and much loved by his companions, “was a help to the poor, to whom he provided sustenance and clothing; a doctor for the sick, whom he cured with great gentleness; and a universal remedy for all the ills of the body”.
During a missionary expedition in 1683, while they were celebrating the peace, some five hundred Indians appeared, along with several caciques. For several days they surrounded and threatened them. On the morning of 27 October, the priests prayed and celebrated the Eucharist. Afterwards, they spoke of God with their besiegers in a friendly tone. In the afternoon, apparently spurred on by sorcerers from their clans, the attackers charged with arrows, spears, clubs and sticks against the missionaries and all their companions, cruelly murdering them.
The faithfulness of these martyrs in persevering in their commitment to reconciliation between different groups in the area, going so far as to be willing to give their lives for this and to forgive their assailants, allows us to see their hierarchy of Christian values. On the other hand, the attention given to the person on the part of Solinas and his companions - as doctors of body and soul - makes it clear how spreading the gospel, directed by the grace of God, aims to respond to the yearnings of every human being, communicating to them the complete life offered by Jesus Christ.
Letter from Fr Arturo Sosa, SJ, Superior General, 24 June 2022
Giovanni Antonio Solinas SJ, beatified in Argentina on 2 July 2022
Father Solinas, ambassador of reconciliation