St Toribio of Lima Celebrated on March 23rd

Reforming bishop. A patron of missionaries and South America.

Toribio Alfonso de Mogrobejo was born in Mayorga, in Spain, in 1538. A law professor at the University of Salamanca, he was appointed chief judge of the Inquisition at Granada by King Philip II.

He was still a layman, when in 1580, he was made a bishop and sent to work in Lima, Peru. He arrived in the following year to find the huge diocese in an appalling state. There were few priests and the Spanish colonists, far from any authority to control them, were 'converting' the Indians by force, giving them no instruction and using and abusing them.

Toribio set about his first visitation of the country immediately. It took him seven years to visit each community, covering enormous distances on foot, horseback and by boat, through coastlines, mountains and jungle with no roads. At the end of his trip he wrote a report and set about building churches, hospitals and schools.

In 1591 he established the first seminary in the New World, at Lima. Toribio learnt several native languages in order to be able to speak directly with as many of his parishioners as possible.

He made many enemies championing the civil rights of the Indians. He was generous to poor Indians and Spaniards alike, giving support discretely so people never realised where it came from.

Toribio confirmed St Rose of Lima and was a friend of hers. A tireless worker, Toribio remained in harness until his death. He became ill during a visitation to Pacamao and died on this day in Santa in 1606.

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