A sixteenth century bishop for the indigenous

On January 27, 1554, Bishop Pablo de Torres, O.P., bishop of Panama, died. This Dominican priest and bishop had been exiled for defending the Indians.

As Enrique Dussell explains in A History of the Church in Latin America:

[He] attempted to enforce the  New Laws [on dealing with the indigenous], but he soon clashed with the encomenderos [Spanish landowners who had indigenous as their indentured workers] by defending the Indian to the ultimate degree of his authority, even to excommunicating the offenders when it was necessary. But the local governor as well as the Supreme Council of the Indies nullified Torres’ actions. The saddest aspect of the situation in Panama was that the Archbishop himself, Loayas, condemned Torres, a judgment confirmed by the Supreme Council. Pablo de Torres left his bishopric in 155 not only saddened by his inability to defend the Indian, but also because after his return to Spain he was accused of treason and never permitted to return to Panama.

The Church has not lacked those who took up the cause of the poor and the marginalized, even though many, even within the Church, have sided with the powerful oppressors.

May the example of Bishop Torres encourage other followers of Christ to speak up, not counting the cost.


One response to “A sixteenth century bishop for the indigenous

  1. Today, in San Cristóbal de las Casas, I had the blessing to pray at the tomb of Don Samuel Ruiz, whose death a year ago, I noted on January 24.

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