Antonio Valdivieso

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Antonio Valdivieso, a Spanish Dominican assigned to Nicaragua, was the first bishop in the Americas to die for the cause of justice and the defense of the Indians. 

From the moment he arrived in Nicaragua in 1544, Valdivieso vigorously opposed the cruel oppression of the native Indians by the Spanish—including the governor and his family. He departed for Spain to present his complaints directly to King Charles V. The king in turn named him bishop of Nicaragua. Valdivieso returned with trepidation, convinced that his new appointment was the equivalent of a death sentence. 

When he landed in Central America, Spanish soldiers tried unsuccessfully to prevent his return to the capital in Leon. Once in the cathedral he resumed his prophetic preaching. Before long, plans for his assassination were being openly discussed. On February 26, 1550, the governor’s son and several of his henchmen forced their way into the bishop’s home and stabbed him, along with two other Dominicans. 

“I write these letters hurriedly in order that Your Majesty might be aware . . . of the great need that exists in these parts for justice.” 

—Bishop Antonio Valdivieso 

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.