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Archdiocese of Oaxaca
Situated in the southern part of the Republic of Mexico, bounded on the north by the Bishopric of Huajuapam and the Archbishopric of Puebla, on the east by the Bishopric of Vera Cruz, on the west by that of Tehuantepec, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. When the conquest of New Spain was accomplished, Hernán Cortés sought the aid of the powerful Tlaxcaltecas, who had established a republic and were at war with the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma. Out of gratitude to the Tlaxcaltecas, the first bishopric that was founded on the American continent was called Tlaxcala, that of Mexico was second, and later that of Guatemala. Oaxaca, the fourth in the order of succession, was established, under the name of Antequera, by Paul III, 21 July, 1535, the first bishop, the Right Rev. Juan López de Zárate, having been preconized that same year. From then to the present day only thirty bishops have governed the diocese, the last being the Most Rev. Eulogio G. Gillow, preconized 23 May, 1887. On 23 June, 1891, Antequera was raised to the rank of an archbishopric by Leo XIII, and has, at the present time as suffragan dioceses, Chiapas, Yucatan, Tabasco, Tehuantepec, and Campeche.
Prior to the Conquest the religion of the entire extensive region now comprised in the Archbishopric of Antequera, or Oaxaca, was idolatry in various forms, according to the different races that populated this district, the Mixteca, Zapoteca, Mixe, anthinanteca predominating, although twenty-two entirely different dialects are known among them. The famous ruins of Mitla indicate that the most venerable priest of the entire American continent resided there, one who was greatly venerated not only by the different villages of the ancient Anahuac, but by others; as those of Peru. We know from history that when the conquerors landed in Vera Cruz, Moctezuma consulted the High-Priest Achiutla, who announced to him that the oracle had predicted the end of his empire. Abjectly crushed, the Emperor yielded to the Spaniards. The kings of Zaachila and Tehuantepec received baptism and submitted to the mild yoke of the Church. After the conquest of Moctezuma's empire the Spaniards who penetrated to Tenochtitlán were amazed to see the wealth that Moctezuma had accumulated, and in all probability knew that a great part of the gold came from Oaxaca. This would explain why from the first they turned their footsteps towards Oaxaca, where the first Mass was celebrated on 25 Nov., 1521, feast of St. Catherine, martyr. Beginning then development was very rapid, as much perhaps from the fact that Cortés was created Marquis of Valle de Oaxaca, in recognition of his distinguished services, as because of the rich mineral resources of the country, whose importance was such that it ranked next to the City of Mexico itself. Missionaries of the different religious orders were introduced: Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Jesuits, Friars of the Order of Mercy, Carmelites, Brothers of St. John; Bethlehemites, and Oratorians. All these congregations built handsome churches in the capital of Oaxaca, which are still in existence, with their convents and subordinate houses annexed. The Dominicans laboured most zealously for the conversion of the natives by means of missions and parochial work. Four Bishops of Oaxaca have been drawn from that order, while four other orders have each contributed one.
The archbishopric at the present time comprise s besides the metropolitan chapter, which is composed of the dean, archdeacon, and chanter, a theological censor, a canon penitentiary, and six other canons. There is a master of ceremonies, a priest sacristan of the main cathedral, and four choir chaplains. The ecclesiastical government consists of a vicar-general, a secretary of the Executive Council, and two assistants. The duties of the Provisorato are discharged by the provisor, fiscal promoter, defender of the Holy Office, and diocesan attorney. There is also a Commission of Rites, composed of four ecclesiastics, one of Christian Doctrine under the charge of six ecclesiastics, and a School Board made up of three clergymen and two laymen.
There are 3 parishes in the city each with its respective church, and 19 other churches, that of St. Dominic being notable for the beauty of its architecture and the richness of its ornamentation. The cathedral, which has a nave and four aisles, is remarkable for the exquisite style and ornateness of its decorations, the beauty of its altars, sacred vessels, and vestments, the present bishop having devoted great thought and expenditure to improvements of this kind, which increase the dignity of the service. There exist in the archdiocese 25 foranias (deaneries) which comprise 132 parishes and 223 priests.
Only within recent years have there been any Protestants in Oaxaca; these hold their services in private houses. It is not easy to give exactly the number of Catholics belonging to the archbishopric, because they are chiefly natives who live in the rural districts and surrounding mountains, but the population is estimated in 1910 at 1,041,035. The State does not sanction the existence of religious communities of men or women. Since they must carry on their various works without attracting public notice, it is difficult to give statistics either of their number, or of the institutions under their care. So, too, while the parochial schools are steadily increasing it is almost impossible to give their exact number. In the city of Oaxaca (in 1910 pop. 37,469) there is a seminary divided into three sections: ordained students (clericales), seminarians (seminaristas), and preparatory students (apostolicos), of whom 102 are interns, under the charge of 6 Paulist Fathers, 6 assistant professors, and 3 coadjutor brothers. The College of the Holy Ghost, established to train the sons of the best families for various careers, has 70 boarders and 250 day scholars under the direction of 8 ecclesiastics and several professors. There are 3 select academies for young women, with an attendance of 600; 6 free schools for boys, with 1600 pupils, and 4 for girls, with 700. Among the charitable institutions under Catholic control are a day nursery accommodating 80 children under the care of 5 nurses, a charity hospital with 24 beds, 12 for men and 12 for women, and a home for the poor with about 90 inmates.
GILLOW, Apuntes Histsricos (Mexico, 1889); BATTANDIER, Ann. Pontif. (Paris, 1906).
Eulogio G. Gillow.