As part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, the cultural association Circulo de Encuentro in Spain has released a book on the youngest bishop to attend the Council, Archbishop Alcides Mendoza, who was only 34 at the time.
In the new book, “At the Service of God: The Memoirs of the Most Rev. Alcides Mendoza, First Bishop of Abancay and Archbishop Emeritus of Cusco,” Colombian journalist Carmen Elena Villa Betancourt, recounts the work and life of Archbishop Mendoza.
The book includes Archbishop Mendoza telling the story of how the Lord called him to the priesthood from his life in a rural community in Peru, which eventually led to him being the youngest bishop to participate in the Second Vatican Council.
The historic event in Church history brought together 2,500 bishops, of which only 34 are still living today.
“I remember at the first session (of the Second Vatican Council) I met the oldest bishop, Archbishop Alfonso Carinci, the former secretary of the Sacred Congregation for the Rites, who turned 101 that day,” he said.
“The Council commission organized an entrance into the Council Hall of the eldest bishop and the youngest bishop, I was 34 years old and had been a bishop for four years,” he recalled.
Along with his story of being the youngest bishop to participate in the Council, Archbishop Mendoza offers reflections on the Church in Latin America and Germany, on the teachings of Jesus, Marian piety, the Eucharist, and the priesthood in the book.
Archbishop Mendoza was born in 1928 in La Mejorada, a small village in the Andes of Peru. At seven years of age he began learning the faith from the Redemptorist missionaries and soon discovered his vocation to the priesthood.
He entered the Minor Seminary of Ayacucho at the age of 12 and was ordained a priest in 1951 at the age of 23. Pope Pius XII appointed him bishop of Abancay, Peru in 1958 at the age of 30, making him the youngest bishop in the world. From 1962 to 1965 he attended the Second Vatican Council.
In 1967 Pope Paul VI appointed him Vicar of the Military Diocese of Peru, a post he held until 1983, when Pope John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Cusco. He served there for the next 20 years until he reached the age of retirement.
In 2008 he celebrated his 50th anniversary as a bishop and was given a special award by Peruvian President Alan Garcia for his service to the country. He currently lives in Chaclacayo, Peru.