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Juan de Palafox y Mendoza

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Bishop of La Puebla de Los Angeles, b. at Fitero in Navarre, 24 June, 1600; d. at Osma in Spain, 1 October, 1659. He was a son of Jamie Palafox y Mendoza, Marquess of Ariza. After studying at the University of Salamanca, he was appointed to the Council of War and of the Indies at the Court of Madrid. In 1629 he renounced this dignity and was ordained priest. He accompanied Princess Mary as almoner to Germany and upon his return was consecrated Bishop of Puebla de Los Angeles, 27 December, 1639, and appointed "visitador general" of Mexico. He arrived there, June, 1640. He soon came in conflict with the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustinians, whose many exemptions and privileges he looked upon as encroachments on his episcopal jurisdiction. In may, 1642, he received secret advice from Madrid to take temporary charge of the Government, in place of the viceroy, Villena, who had been accused of financial mismanagement and secret sympathies with the Portuguese rebels in New Spain. At the same time he was appointed Archbishop of Mexico. From 10 June to 23 November, 1642, he was acting viceroy, but would not accept the dignity of archbishop. During his viceroyalty of five months, he corrected many financial abuses, framed new statutes for the University of Mexico, and to root out idolatry among the aborigines, destroyed many Aztec idols and other pagan antiquities collected by preceding viceroys.

In 1647 began his conflict with the Jesuits. The reason for the strife was the numerous exemptions and privileges which the Jesuit missionaries had enjoyed in Mexico since the beginning of the seventeenth century, and which, in the opinion of Palafox, undermined his episcopal authority. In a letter to Innocent X, dated 25 May, 1647, he denounced the use which the Jesuits were making of their privileges and asked the pope for redress. The pope answered with a brief, dated 18 May, 1648, in which he sustains the bishop in all disputed points of jurisdiction, but exhorts him to be more kind and lenient towards the Jesuits. A second letter to Pope Innocent X, dated 8 January, 1649, more acrimonious than the first, is often attributed to Palafox, but was probably forged by enemies of the Jesuits, as it is disavowed by Palafox in a defense of his actions which he addressed to Philip IV of Spain in 1652. In May, 1649, Palafox left for Spain. On 27 May, 1653, Innocent X issued a new brief, in which he confirmed his previous decision in favour of Palafox. The bishop was transferred to the Diocese of Osma in Spain in 24 November, 1652. He spent the remainder of his life labouring with his usual zeal for the spiritual welfare of his flock, which honoured and reverenced him as a saint.

The process of his canonization was introduced in 1726 under Benedict XIII, and was continued during the pontificates of Benedict XIV, Clement XIII, Clement XIV, and Pius VI. At the last session which was held on 28 February, 1777, twenty-six out of forty-one votes favoured his beatification, but Pius VI suspended the final decision. His literary products, consisting chiefly of ascetic, pastoral, and historical treatises in Spanish were published in fifteen volumes (Madrid, 1762).


Istoria della vita del venerable monsignore Don Giovanni di Palafox e Mendoza, vescovo d'Angelopoli e poi d'Osma I, II (Florence, 1773); ROSENDE, Vida y virtudes de D. Juan de Palafox y Mendoza (Madrid, 1666); DINOUART, Vie de Juan de Palafox (Cologne, 1767), anti-jesuitical; BANCROFT, History of Mexico III (San Francisco, 1883), 98-134; Eguren, Palafox y los Jesuitas (Madrid, 1878).

About this page

APA citation. Ott, M. (1911). Juan de Palafox y Mendoza. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Ott, Michael. "Juan de Palafox y Mendoza." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <>.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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