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St Toribio (Alfonso de Mogrovejo)

Spain and Peru

St Toribio Alfonso de Mogrovejo was a bishop in Peru and a defender of the rights of the native Indians. He was born in Majorca in Spain in 1538. He became a lawyer and then a professor at the University of Salamanca. He was later made chief judge in the Inquisition at Granada. King Philip II of Spain then appointed him in 1580 to the post of archbishop of Lima in Peru in South America.

Toribio arrived in Peru in 1581 and began to reform the archdiocese of Lima. He tried to help the poor and defend the rights of the Indians, who had suffered severely under the Spanish colonists.

He began his mission work by travelling on foot, baptizing and teaching the natives. His favorite saying was: ‘Time is not our own, and we must give a strict account of it.’ On three occasions he travelled the 450,000 square kilometers of his diocese. He could speak in several Indian dialects and baptized and confirmed nearly half a million Catholics, including St Rose of Lima and St Martin de Porres. He encountered much opposition from the Spanish governors of Peru, whose authority he challenged.

He built roads, schoolhouses and chapels, many hospitals and convents. In Lima, in 1591, he founded the first seminary in the western hemisphere. He began the construction of the first part of the third Lima Cathedral in 1604.

St Toribio established thirteen diocesan synods and three provincial councils. Years before he died, he predicted the day and hour of his death. At Pacasmayo he contracted fever, but continued laboring to the last, arriving at a place called Sana very near to death. Dragging himself to the sanctuary he received Holy Communion and died shortly after. It was 23 March 1606. He was canonized in 1726, and later declared the patron of native rights.