The heart of the Americas

Lima has a special place in the history of Latin American Catholicism: St Rose, who lived her life in the Peruvian capital, was the first person from the Americas to be declared a saint. And, in the strange way that saints often coincide, the archbishop who confirmed her has also been raised to the altars. Although he is less well-known, St Turibius of Mogrovejo is also a figure of signal importance.

An unexpected ordination

He made several career changes: born in Spain in 1538 to a noble family, he swiftly climbed the academic ranks and became a law professor at Salamanca, before serving at the Inquisition.

The king then decided to make him a missionary archbishop – an appointment against which he strenuously protested, partly because he was not even a priest at the time. But the king got his way, and Turibius was ordained, consecrated and dispatched to Peru. Turibius travelled by foot, risking life and limb to reach its remote areas. “Time is not our own,” he would say, “and we must give a strict account of it.” He baptised and confirmed nearly half a million Peruvians, edited a catechism for them, and would sometimes spend days travelling to bring the Gospel to a single soul.

Challenging exploitation

While heroically performing the usual acts of an archbishop – establishing religious houses (and the first seminary in the Western hemisphere), cracking down on abuses among the clergy and preaching – he was also a zealous advocate for the rights of the Peruvian people, whose dialects he learned to speak.

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