Category Archives: History of Latin America

#248 – Retablos

The tradition and devotion of the Retablos show the common desire of Catholics to have physical and visual expressions of their faith. They also show how different cultures adopt these devotionals to express their own particular culture.

Example of Mexican and New Mexican Retablos
Examples of Peruvian Retablos
Example of a Spanish Retablos
Image of Peruvian Retablo by Patty Mooney

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podcasticon#248 – Retablos


Today in Catholic History – Pope Alexander VI gives sovereignty of most of North and South America to Spain

On 4 May 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued the bull Inter caetera which granted to Spain sovereignty over all land from a pole-to-pole line 100 leagues west and south of any of the islands of the Azores or the Cape Verde Islands, unless it had previously been claimed by another Christian ruler. Therefore, Portugal retained control over Brazil but the rest of North and South America would fall under the sovereignty of Spain. Pope Alexander VI was himself born in Spain and generally very favorable to the Spanish government.

While Spain was pleased with this bull, Portugal was not as Inter caetera only mentioned Spain’s right to claim new territory – not the rights of the Portuguese. This disagreement would later be resolved with the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494.

While Spain and Portugal recognized this division of control, it was never accepted by the other European colonial powers.

More recently there has been a push by those who see the history of Spanish colonization as a disaster for the native peoples for a repeal of Inter Caetera. They accuse Inter Caetera of attempting to provide justification for a policy of subjugation and oppression. Indeed on Columbus Day/International Indigenous Peoples Day, some will burn copies of Inter Caetera in protest.

Inter Caetera
Modern day hostility to Inter Caetera

Today in Catholic History – Establishment of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America

On 19 April 1958, Pope Pius XII established the Pontifical Commission for Latin America with the purpose of evaluating and assisting with issues related to the Catholic Church in Latin America. It operates under the Congregation of Bishops.

Pope John Paul II defined the present responsibilities of the Commission in Article 83 of the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, Pastor Bonus, as “to be available to the particular Churches in Latin America, by counsel and by action, taking a keen interest in the questions that affect the life and progress of those Churches; and especially to help the Churches themselves in the solution of those questions, or to be helpful to those dicasteries of the Curia that are involved by reason of their competence.”

Some of the topics in which the Commission has been involved are priestly formation in Latin America, evangelization, immigration, poverty and globalization. The president of the Commission is the Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, presently this is Giovanni Cardinal Re.

Pontifical Commission for Latin America