September 22nd 1611 - Pedro de Ribadeneira
† in Madrid
Ribadeneira came from Toledo. There he was born on November 1st 1526. At the age of thirteen he came as a page of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese to Rome. In August 1540 he was admitted to the Society of Jesus. Ribadeneira was only fourteen years old. He was full of life and intelligent, hot-headed and passionate, and nevertheless pious and humble like a child. Ignatius esteemed him highly, and had an unbelievable patience with his many capers. Time and again he pleaded for him, often against the opinion of his Brethren.
After studies in Paris, Louvain, and Padua he was first assigned for the College in Palermo, then for the Germanicum in Rome. In 1553 he was ordained priest and worked in the Netherlands, in London and Italy. Under Laínez and Borja he held important offices. He was Provincial in the Toscana, Commissioner in Sicily, and Assistant for Spain and Portugal. Under General Mercurian he was sent to Spain again in 1573. He died in Madrid on September 22nd 1611, at the high age of eighty five.
Ribadeneira wrote a Latin biography of St Ignatius, which was published in 1572 in Naples. In 1583 appeared an improved Spanish edition. Many reprints in most European languages followed. He wrote also a biography of Francisco de Borja. He translated the 'Confessiones' of St Augustine into Spain and a History of the English Schism from Henry VIII up to the death of Maria Stuart. His perhaps most famous work is a 'Legends of the Saints' in two volumes. It appeared in 1599/1601 in Madrid, and was widely spread.
In the preparatory notes to Ignatius' biography Ribadeneira drew the parallel between Ignatius and Luther. Hence that parallelism, which became through centuries a popular topic of historians, had first been invented in the circle of the Jesuits. John W. O'Malley has pointed to that in his book 'The first Jesuits' ('Die ersten Jesuiten', p. 322).
Of importance is the question, how Ribadeneira judged the Order's Candidates with Jewish ancestors. At that time this question was of immediate interest. Christians with Jewish (and in those days also Muslim) ancestors were again and again exposed to persecutions. Their suppression in the Mediterranean area got a threatening hardness by the expulsion decrees 1492 in Spain, and 1496 in Portugal.
Ignatius and his successors refused to yield to the public pressure. The number of Jew-Christian Candidates admitted to the Society of Jesus was not a small one. Only the fifth General Congregation excluded in 1593 such Candidates from entering the Order.
Father Antonio Possevino, probably himself of Jewish origin and others were embittered about that decision, and qualified it as a betrayal of Ignatius, and of the Institute of the Order. The prohibition was moderated in 1608 and then in 1923 again, but completely abolished only in 1946. The choice of Laínez as Ignatius' successor in the General's office shows convincingly that - at least in the early period of the Order - Jewish origin was not an obstacle, not even for the highest position in the Order.
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