Thursday, January 6, 2011

400 years ago today the world lost Saint Juan de Ribera

Saint Juan de Ribera

Saint Juan de Ribera was born in the city of Seville, Spain, on March 20, 1532, and died in Valencia on January 6, 1611. Ribera was one of the most influential figures of his times, holding appointments as Archbishop and Viceroy of Valencia, patriarch of Antioch, Commander in Chief, president of the Audiencia, and Chancellor of the University of Valencia. He was beatified in 1796 and canonized by Pope John XXIII in 1960.

BiographyHis father was Pedro de Ribera, Viceroy of Naples and Duke of Alcala. He became an orphan from mother's side at a very young age.

Juan de Ribera studied at the University of Salamanca. Ordained as priest in 1557, Pope Pius IV appointed him Bishop of Badajoz on May 27, 1562, at the age of 30. There he dedicated himself to teaching the catechism to Roman Catholics and counteracting Protestantism. He was appointed as the Archbishop of Valencia on December 3, 1568. King Philip III of Spain later appointed him Viceroy of Valencia in 1602, and thus he became both the religious and the civil authority. In this role he founded the Museum of the Patriarch, known among Valencians as College of Saint John, entrusted to the formation of priests according to the spirit and the dispositions of the Council of Trent.

Expulsion of the Moriscos:
As Archbishop, Ribera dealt with the issue of Valencia's large morisco population, descendants of Muslims who converted to Christianity at threat of exile. The moriscos had been kept separate from the main population by a variety of decrees that prohibited them from holding public office, entering the priesthood, or taking certain other positions; as a result, the moriscos had maintained their own culture rather than assimilated. Some of them did, in fact, still practice forms of crypto-Islam in secret.

Ribera despised the moriscos as heretics and traitors, a dislike he shared with much of Valencia's Christian populace. With the Duke of Lerma, Ribera helped convince Philip III to at least expel the moriscos instead. Ribera helped sell the plan by noting that all the property of the moriscos could be impounded to provide money for the treasury.

In 1609, the expulsion of the moriscos from Spain was decreed. Ribera's original proposal was in fact more extreme: he favored enslaving the entire morisco population for work in galleys, mines, and abroad. Ribera said that Philip III could do so "without any scruples of conscience," but this proposal was rejected.

If the moriscos were to be expelled, Ribera favored enslaving and Christianizing at least the children of the moriscos "for the good of their souls" and exiling the parents. This was also rejected, though children under 16 years of age who wished to remain in Spain were allowed, an offer very few took.

Efforts to canonize Ribera, who himself had been active in attempting to canonize Ignatius of Loyola, began shortly after his death. Two concerns were raised about his possible sainthood: his failure to hold a provincial council as mandated by the Council of Trent, and his role in the expulsion of the Moriscos. His supporters played up Ribera's adherence to other parts of the Council of Trent, and tried to present the Moriscos as unconvertible ("[His conversion attempts] had no more effect on the moriscos as if they had been stones").

Still, efforts proceeded apace, with various admiring biographies (vidas) of Ribera being published. Ribera was beatified in 1796. In 1960, his canonization was completed under the auspices of Blessed Pope John XXIII.

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