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missionaries, while at the same time increasing its suspicion of missionaries of other nationalities. Rome, moreover, experienced a declining interest in the world mission movement during the eighteenth century, and the supply of missionaries gradually diminished. There were never enough priests for the African mission field, and while many of the missionary priests were exemplary in their piety and commitment, others proved disappointing. Often isolated and lacking regular episcopal supervision or encouragement, some grew discouraged, took concubines or became slavers, bringing scandal and disrepute to their church and their calling. Many missionaries succumbed to the African climate and fever. Of 438 known Capuchin fathers active in the mission to the Kongo between 1645 and 1835, 229 died after a few years in the mission field, while others returned home in poor health. Portugal's decision in 1759 to expel the Jesuits from its colonial territories further reduced the numbers of missionaries, especially in Zambesia. While efforts were made to recruit and educate an African priesthood, these proved insufficient and there were never enough African priests. Capuchin fathers, moreover, were suspicious of the lay maestri and often declined to give them the necessary support.

Catholic missions in other parts of the world, however, confronted similar difficulties, without the collapse that was experienced in sub-Saharan Africa. What was distinctive about Africa was the social devastation caused by the slave trade. While slavery and the slave trade co-existed with Christianity in the past, in Africa the sheer scale of this trade was unprecedented. From the mid-seventeenth century, tens of thousands of Africans were shipped off each year to plantations in the Americas. Portugal's African empire became primarily a source of slaves. In order to feed the burgeoning demand for human labour, the slavers began seizing whole villages and devastating and depopulating whole districts. This in turn contributed to civil warfare and social breakdown. It is estimated that 40 per cent of the total number of slaves crossing the Atlantic came from the Kongo-Angola area - a figure out of all proportion to the population of the region, and one of the main reasons for the disintegration of the Christian Kongolese Kingdom. Some of the clergy in Africa, it must be noted, owned slaves or engaged in the slave trade. For example, Fr Pedro de S. S. Trinidade, who lived at Zumbo on the Zambezi between 1710 and 1754, owned 1,600 slaves and worked a gold mine. Nearly all the clergy received financial support through the slave trade. Nonetheless, many of the clergy were prepared to speak out against slavery and the slave trade. In 1686, in response to appeals from the Capuchins and petitions orchestrated by a former Afro-Brazilian slave, Lourenco da Silva (who claimed to be of royal Kongolese

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