Palafox and his patronage of social-assistance institutions
Besides the consecration of Puebla Cathedral, an act of enormous political- religious assertion, Palafox also sought to strengthen the city’s social institutions.
For him, the bishop was the caretaker of his brethren, and in his writings, he asserted that his subjects’ spiritual and physical health was his direct responsibility. In a pastoral letter written in 1658 and titled “Ezekiel’s Trumpet,” or La trompeta de Ezequiel, based on the biblical passage of Ezekiel 33, 1-9, which compares the prophet to a guard or sentinel for the City of Jerusalem, Palafox observed his role as bishop in close parallel to Ezekiel’s personification of a sentinel.53
Today, charitable institutions are thought of as a governmental or secular responsibility. However, in the early modern Hispanic world, social assistance was a duty entrusted to the Church, which worked in tandem, in certain instances, with secular authorities to fulfill the social need of establishing and maintaining hospitals, mental institutions, hospices, and other social institutions. In early modern Catholic nations, hospitals were, by convention, a religious concern. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) established that “the places commonly called hospitals, or other pious places [were] instituted especially for the use of pilgrims, of the infirm, the aged, or the poor,”54 and these were institutions inscribed in Catholic principles: “Those who cherish hospitality receive Christ in (the person of) their guests.”55 The Council also established that hospitals or other charitable institutions, whether created by private or ecclesiastical interests, had to be placed under the care and rule of the bishop: “The bishop shall take care that what is ordained be observed, or, if that be not possible, he shall as above, regulate the matter in a useful manner.”56 This meant that the bishops would oversee the budgets of any hospital in their bishopric.57