Sanabria Martínez, Víctor M. (1898–1952)

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Sanabria Martínez, Víctor M. (1898–1952)

Víctor M. Sanabria Martínez (b. 17 January 1898; d. 8 June 1952), archbishop of San José, Costa Rica (1940–1952).

Archbishop Sanabria's advocacy of social justice and his political role in the 1940s make him the most famous, popular, and controversial twentieth-century Costa Rican prelate. He rose from humble beginnings to become a well-educated, "people's" priest who addressed the issues that moved his nation during the tumultuous decade 1940–1950. As the established leader of the Costa Rican church, he committed his institution to the social reforms called for in the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum. He studied civil and canon law in Rome and returned to San José with an earned doctorate in canon law.

Sanabria wrote extensively on church history. He also produced a multivolume genealogy of Cartago that elicited almost as much controversy as his social activism because it brought to light so many details that the residents of that patriarchal city wished to maintain in obscurity.

Sanabria was appointed the second archbishop of San José in March 1940, the same year in which his friend Dr. Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia (1940–1944) was inaugurated. These two young leaders shared the deep conviction that their nation needed profound social change based on church teachings in order to ensure social justice and progress. Somewhat the older, Sanabria came to political prominence as a mentor to the president. Together they worked to pass a sweeping program of legislation that culminated in the amendment of the constitution to include social guarantees, such as social security insurance, an eight-hour workday, minimum wage, the right to organize trade unions and to form cooperatives, and the basic right to human dignity.

Sanabria publicly advocated the government's reform program and indirectly sanctioned its political alliance with the Popular Vanguard Party (PVP), a communist party. Sanabria was criticized by conservative Catholics at home, and he was denied entry to Guatemala because of his political orientation. He played an active role in organizing Catholic labor unions to rival those organized by the communists.

Sanabria tried valiantly but in vain to mediate the political crisis following the 1948 election. He helped protect president-elect Otilio Ulate Blanco (1949–1953) and he participated in the mediations that led to the cessation of the armed conflict.

His active role in a time of change and conflict made Sanabria a towering but controversial personage. His accomplishments were recognized after his death, when he was named Benemérito de la Patria by the national congress in 1959.

See alsoCosta Rica .


Ricardo Blanco Segura, Monseñor Sanabria (1962).

Franklin D. Parker, The Central American Republics (1964).

John Patrick Bell, Crisis in Costa Rica (1971).

Richard Biesanz, Karen Zubris Biesanz, and Mavis Hiltunen Biesanz, The Costa Ricans (1982; rev. ed. 1988).

Additional Bibliography

Creedman, Theodore S. El gran cambio: De León Cortés a Calderón Guardia. San José: Editorial Costa Rica, 1996.

Rosales Blandino, José Francisco. Los laicos en el magisterio eclesiológico de Monseñor Victor Manuel Sanabria Martínez Arzobispo de San José de Costa Rica (1940–1952). Rome: Pontificia Studiorum Universitas a S. Thoma Aq in Urbe, 2004.

Solís, Javier. La herencia de Sanabria: Análisis político de la iglesia costarricense. San José: Departmento Ecuménico de Investigaciones, 1983.

                                          John Patrick Bell

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Sanabria Martínez, Víctor M. (1898–1952)

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