NOVEMBER 23, 1855


When Mexico obtained its independence from Spain in 1821, leader Agustin de Iturbide promised to maintain the Catholic religion and the clergy’s traditional privileges. However, with the coming of the Second Mexican Republic, a liberal government under President Juan Álvarez passed a law, named after his Zapotec Minister of Justice Benito Juárez, which abolished the jurisdiction that ecclesiastical & military courts previously had had over purely civil cases. The law commenced a series of legal steps designed to restrict the power of the Church in Mexico. The subsequent Lerdo Law, in 1856, seized not only Church property, but Indigenous communal property, as well. Both laws were incorporated into the 1857 Constitution. When Juárez became president (1858-1872), he banished the Catholic bishops who condemned the reform laws. Unfortunately, while the reforms reduced the institutional power of the Church, they also undermined Indigenous communities whose lands were bought by speculators.

  “Exile of Mexican Prelates to Rome,” Moving Saints of the Bronx, Fordham University.  Retrieved 6/6/2022, Exile of Mexican Prelates to Rome · Moving Saints of the Bronx (
Photo:  Author unknown, circa 1850-72.  Benito Juárez.  Public Domain.  Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Call Number: LOT 3112, no. 81 [P&P], Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-7875 (b&w film copy neg.). 

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