The Diocese of La Laguna on the Spanish island of Tenerife has sent Pope Francis a bronze sculpture of St. Jose of Anchieta to celebrate the Jesuit saint’s recent canonization. Known as the “Apostle of Brazil,” St. Jose of Anchieta was born on Tenerife, which is part of the Canary Islands and is territory that belongs to Spain. The sculpture was created in 1980 by Spanish artist Enrique Cejas Zaldivar. Pope Francis’ personal secretary received the statue at St. Martha’s Residence at the Vatican last week. St. John Paul II was given a replica of the statue to mark the beatification of St. Jose of Anchieta, and a second replica was given to the Cathedral of Sao Paulo. A third replica is kept in the Diocese of La Laguna and was used to create a new statue that was sent to Pope Francis. The 52-centimeter statue sits on a four centimeter-high base with a small plaque that reads, “Gift of the Diocese of San Cristobal de La Laguna (Tenerife) to Pope Francis, April 24, 2014.” The base is also decorated with the phrase, “St. Jose of Anchieta, canonized by Pope Francis on April 3, 2014,” along with the artist’s signature. St. Jose of Anchieta is the second native-born saint from the Canary Islands. He was born in San Cristobal de La Laguna, and later he went to Coimbra in Portugal to study. It was there he met the Jesuits and entered the Society of Jesus. He was sent to Brazil as a missionary and was one of the founders of the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. He also formalized the Tupi language spoken by native tribes in the region. He is considered the first playwright, the first grammarian and the first poet born in the Canarias and the father of Brazilian literature. St. John Paul II beatified him in 1980 at St. Peter’s Basilica. Pointing to his missionary and evangelical work, Benedict XVI named him one of the patron saints for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. In April 2014, Pope Francis raised him to sainthood through “equivalent canonization.” The Holy Father also celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving in honor of St. Jose of Anchieta on April 24 at the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Rome.
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