Joaquim Magalhães de Castro
Born in Porto, Nunes Barreto completed his studies in Salamanca and served as parish priest in the archdiocese of Braga. In 1545 he entered the Society of Jesus in Coimbra.
Between 1548 and 1554 he was a missionary in Tetouan, Morocco, where he was deeply involved in offering spiritual solace to slaves, and he returned to Lisbon to raise funds to rescue them. There he received news that the founder of the Society of Jesus, Inácio de Loyola, whose policy was not to allow the Jesuits to become bishops, had accepted Dom João III of Portugal’s request to have Nunes Barreto named Patriarch of Ethiopia so that the Catholic Church could be further developed there.
Appointed in January 1555 and consecrated on May 4, in the Convent of the Santíssima Trindade of Lisbon, by Dom Julião de Alva, bishop of Portalegre, assisted by Dom Gaspar Cão, OSA, bishop of São Tomé and Príncipe and by Dom Pedro Fernando, titular bishop of Hippos, Nunes Barreto left Portugal for India at the end of March 1556, together with Andrés de Oviedo and Belchior Carneiro Leitão (the first consecrated bishop in China, whose work was rewarded when the Diocese of Macau was established in 1576 by Pope Gregory XIII), Jesuit bishops consecrated with him and designated as his coadjutor bishops.
Upon arrival in Goa, Nunes Barreto saw with the Jesuit confreres recently returned from Ethiopia that the situation was not favorable. He decided, however, to send Oviedo to improve the status of the mission with the Ethiopian authorities.
Oviedo had some success with one of the monarchs, but not with his successors. Realizing that it was unlikely he could enter Ethiopia, Nunes Barreto dedicated his talents to an active ministry in Goa. He suggested to Jesuit superiors to ask the Pope for permission to renounce his status as patriarch and bishop. The negative response from superiors reached Goa after his death.