Everybody was glad when Toribio, the lawyer, was appointed a judge, because he was known as just, and fair, and merciful.
Then, one day, King Philip II, Prince of the Asturias, ruler of all Spain in Europe and in the Americas, needed a fair person in his colonies. He asked the Pope to make Toribio a bishop. Soon, Toribio was named Archbishop of Lima, Peru and of all the King’s colonies from Ecuador to Argentina.
Toribio had to cross the Atlantic Ocean, travel overland to cross the continent, then sail again in the Pacific Ocean. When, at last, he arrived, all the King’s agents welcomed him. Everyone wanted to be near Toribio, a friend of the King and the Pope.
Some were afraid, because Toribio had served as a judge of the terrifying Inquisition, but Toribio had been a good inquisitor who saved many people from unjust treatment.
The viceroy, the King’s number one man, expected Toribio to settle all his difficulties. Toribio did what he could for the Viceroy, but he remembered that the Pope had made him archbishop of all the people from Ecuador to Argentina.
Toribio set out to visit everyone. He climbed mountains. He walked up and down valleys. He crossed rivers and rode horses. He rode mules, and he also walked and walked and walked. He visited all the King’s Colonies. He visited what we now call Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina. He may have passed through Paraguay, too. He visited, not once, but twice in many places.
Spanish military, church and civil authorities who were unjust, greedy, or cruel, trembled when Toribio visited their towns and villages. They were afraid, because Toribio talked to everyone and went everywhere. And Toribio did see that, in many places, the native peoples were treated badly by the Spaniards.
Toribio thought about the way people were treated. It made him sad, and he decided to do something about it. First, he ordered his priests to treat everyone with respect, Spaniards and Native Peoples alike. He ordered them to show special kindness, and to share whatever they had with the poor. He insisted that priests were to live holy lives according to the teachings of Jesus.
To make certain the priests understood, he called them all to a great meeing, called The Second Synod of Lima where he spoke to them about all the things they were to do. People didn’t have two cars those days, but some had two mules. Toribio said if a priest needed a mule, he was to have only one. If he had two, he was to give it away or sell it to help the poor.
Toribio founded a seminary to train priests the way he wanted them to be. Almost 450 years later, he is still remembered. The Seminary in Lima, Peru is named for him.
Toribio was not satisfied with telling the priests to be kind. He wanted the people to know what Jesus taught. In those days to print anything, it was necessary to have permission from the King. The King was far away in Spain. Toribio knew the law, but he didn’t wait for any permission. He printed the first catechism in the New World. And he printed it in three languages, Spanish, Quechua and Aymara. The latter are two of the languages of the Native Peoples of Peru.
Toribio insisted so much on the rights of native peoples that he became known as the Defender of The Indigenous. Indigenous means native. Indigenous people are the people native to an area or a country, the first people to live there. Toribio was so good and kind, that the Catholic Church calls him a Saint. So, if you are every treated unfairly, remember Toribio, the good lawyer, and insist on fair treatment for yourself and everyone else.
The feast of St. Toribio is celebrated on March 23.
© All rights reserved for stories and photos, Elizabeth V. Roach 2008