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Pereira y Castellón, Simeón

PEREIRA Y CASTELLÓN, SIMEÓN

Nicaraguan "martyr bishop"; b. León, Nicaragua, July 2, 1863; d. there, Jan. 29, 1922. He was a member of a family of high social status, the son of Pedro Pereira and Dolores Castellón. In 1879 he entered the Society of Jesus and attended the Colegio de San Ignacio de Loyola in Matagalpa. When the Jesuits were exiled in 1881, he went with them to Ecuador, where he completed his studies at the University of Quito. He then taught for several years, first in Bogotá and then in Medellín. Ill health caused him to return to nicaragua in 1892. He was ordained in León and celebrated his first Mass on March 19, 1894. On the expulsion of the vicars general from Nicaragua, the vicariate was entrusted to him. He too was ordered into exile, but influential friends persuaded President José Simón Zelaya to cancel that decree, and Pereira remained in Nicaragua.

On July 25, 1896, he was consecrated auxiliary bishop of Nicaragua with the right of succession to Bp. Francisco Ulloa y Larios (18801902). As bishop he continued to be harassed by the political authorities to such an extent that he gained his epithet "Martyr Bishop." When he wrote a strong pastoral letter against the anti-Catholic decrees of President Zelaya, he was first imprisoned in the barracks at Managua and then (Nov. 3,1898) exiled to Costa Rica. He was again exiled in 1905 when clerical garb was forbidden in Nicaragua. This time he went to Rome and on the way preached in Spain, in Toledo and Zaragoza, and was acclaimed by the press as a representative of the American pulpit. He also lived in Mexico, Panama, Colombia, and Costa Rica before he was able to return in triumph to Nicaragua.

Bishop Pereira y Castellón reorganized the minor seminary in León and repaired and decorated the cathedral. With the permission of the Holy See he turned over the episcopal residence for the use of the Colegio de la Asunción. He founded a catechetical institute and, largely with his own funds, built an orphanage. He arranged to have Christian Brothers and Dominicans come into the diocese. He founded, and had printed on his own press, a diocesan newspaper. When the archdiocese was created in Nicaragua in 1912, he remained bishop of León, but the pope made him titular archbishop of Sísico. Benedict XV later gave him the titles of Roman Count and Attendant at the Pontifical Throne. In 1914 the national congress passed a resolution of public gratitude to Bishop Pereira and authorized the erection of a monument to him after his death.

Bibliography: a. aguilar, Reseña histórica de la diócesis de Nicaragua (León 1927).

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