July 17: Bartolome de Las Casas, Missionary to the Indies, 1566


Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Romans 12.9-18


Las Casas, the Apostle to the Indians, was the first to expose the oppression of the Indians by the Europeans. He was born in Seville, Spain, in August 1474, the son of a merchant. He went to America in 1502 with Governor Nicolas de Ovando, and for his participation in the expedition he was given a royal land grant in Cuba which included the Indians who lived on the land. He soon gave up colonizing to undertake the reform of a system which he came to see was inhumane.

He was ordained a priest in Hispaniola ca. 1512, perhaps the first person to be ordained in the New World. In 1514 he experienced a kind of conversion, and announced that he was returning all his Indian serfs to the governor. From 1515 to 1522 he traveled between Spain and America in a continued attempt to win approval for a series of projects that he was convinced would make for peaceful colonization and the Christianization of the Indians. His experiment collapsed in 1522.

Frustrated in this attempt, Las Casas too refuge in the religious life and entered the Dominican Order in 1523. After an extended retreat, he resumed his plans for peaceful evangelization in Hispaniola, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. In 1540 he returned to Spain from Santo Domingo and worked for the “New Laws” which prohibited slavery and made colonization more humane. The laws were widely ignored.

Made Bishop of Chiapas in Guatemala, Las Casas attempted with 44 Dominicans to implement the New Laws himself, but his efforts met with only limited success. He returned to Spain in 1547 and in 1550 engaged in a bitter controversy with theologians who held that war against the Indians was justified because they were plainly inferior to the Spanish. Las Casas became influential at court and composed a number of major works critical of Spanish colonial policy.

Las Casas died July 17, 1566. Postage stamps commemorating Las Casas have been issued in Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua; and, there is a stature of Las Casas in the New York Public Library.

— from Festivals and Commemorations by Phillip Pffateicher

A Reading

“What man of sound mind will approve a war against men who are harmless, ignorant, gentle, temperate, unarmed, and destitute of every human defense? For the results of such a war are very surely the loss of the souls of that people who perish without knowing god and without the support of the sacraments, and, for the survivors, hatred and loathing of the Christian religion. . . The Indians are our brothers, and Christ has given his life for them. Why, then, do we persecute them with such inhuman savagery when they do not deserve such treatment? The past, because it cannot be undone, must be attributed to our weakness, provided that what has been taken unjustly is restored.”

— from In Defense of the Indians
by Las Casas


Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image. Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression. Help us like your servant Bartolome de Las Casas to use our freedom to bring justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN

— Pastor Stickley