1. Portuguese Inquisition in Goa
The Portuguese Inquisition was established in 1536 and the Spanish Inquisition in 1478. Goa, which was under the Portuguese,
established the inquisition in its region around 1560.
Similar to other inquisition courts, Goa also had its own set up. Those sentenced to death were handed over to the secular
authority, which burnt them on the stake the next day in the presence of the Viceroy.
Approximately 71 "Auto da Fes" were said to have taken place between 1600-1773. About 4,046 people were sentenced
to various punishments. Of these, 3,034 were males and 1,012 were females. Among the condemned to death by burning on the
stake, 105 were men and 16 women.
2. Church Stance On Inquisition
The Catholic Church is not afraid to face the historical truth about Inquisitions. This fact was evidenced when the Vatican
published a 778-page collection of historical papers, delivered at its groundbreaking 1998 symposium on the Inquisition.
Pope John Paul II greeted the publication of the works June 15, 2004 with a letter underlining the Church's "spirit of
repentance" as it reflected on how Christians had turned to "methods of intolerance and even violence in the service of the
The pope said his "mea culpa" liturgy during the 2000 jubilee year, in which he asked forgiveness for the sins of Christians
of past centuries, applied to the "dramatic events of the Inquisition and the wounds of memory that derive from it."
Pope John Paul II went ahead examining the darker chapters of the Church's past, although he met with some resistance inside
the Church, according to Swiss Cardinal Georges Cottier, the pope's in-house theologian and an organizer of the 1998 symposium.
He spoke at a Vatican press conference to present the volume.
Antonio Borromeo, who edited the new volume, told reporters that the symposium papers would modify some popularly held
beliefs about the Inquisition. In particular, he said, the "recourse to torture and to the death penalty were not so frequent
as was long believed.” For example, he said, that out of approximately 125,000 cases tried by the Spanish Inquisition
only 1 percent resulted in the death penalty.
Citing statistics on the number of women burned at the stake during the European "witch hunts" over several centuries,
Borromeo cited one study to show fewer than 100 were executed by the Inquisition, compared to approximately 50,000 executed
on the order of civil tribunals of the time.
History, the Church holds, should be understood and analyzed in the socio-political context and perspectives of the time.
It also holds that while the Church is holy, its human members are sinful and they need constant repentance and renewal of
Jesuits at Akbar's Court
The history of organized Christian mission in northern India begins in 1578 when Mogul Emperor Jalaluddin Muhammed Akbar
invited Jesuits from Goa to Fatehpur Sikri, his capital. He wanted them to provide Muslim and Hindu scholars at his court
with first-hand knowledge about Christian doctrines.
Three Jesuit priests, Fathers Rudolf Acquaviva, Francis Henriques and Anthony Monserrate embarked on the mission from Goa
to the Mogul court (1580-1583). They reached Fatehpur Sikri through Surat and Gwalior on February 28, 1580. Their one objective,
all agree, was to convert the emperor, and through him the people.
Although very religious, Akbar did not commit to become a Christian. The Jesuits then thought of spending their time fruitfully
elsewhere. In 1582, Francis Henriques and Monserrate returned to Goa, but Rudolf remained hoping to persuade the emperor more.
But in 1583, Rudolf too returned without success.
However, the mission was not at all a disappointment, as seen later in history. This mission paved way for the spread of
Christianity in the northern region.
The Christian presence at the court helped create a better understanding and dialogue between Islam and Christianity. That
friendship and understanding would outlive the first missioners. Subsequent Jesuit missioners were similarly well received
by the Mogul court. This first contact created a pattern of normal relationships between the scholars of different religious
The Jesuits undertook a second mission in 1591. Fathers Edward Leitao and Christopher de Vega along with Brother Stephen
Ribeiro arrived at Lahore, invited by Akbar. But it lasted less than a year and was abandoned after the missioners felt the
emperor had been using them for his own ends.
In 1594, Father Jerome Xavier (grand nephew of Francis Xavier) accompanied by Father Manuel Pinheiro and Brother Benedict
de Goes arrived in Lahore on a third mission. This time Akbar gave them permission to open a school. The king, however, evaded
discussing religion saying the missioners needed to learn Persian language before wanting to discuss religious topics.
However, Akbar helped Portuguese Jesuit Benedict GoŽs to embark on an overland route to China. He died before reaching
Jesuits enjoyed the patronage of Akbar and his son Jahangir but during the region of Shah Jahan and Aurengazeb this disappeared.
But the Jesuit mission is considered path breaking.
De Nobilli Movement
Italian Jesuit Father Robert de Nobili (1577-1656) is considered the missioner responsible for taking Christianity to the
interiors of India. He is also credited for attempting to acculturate the Christian faith in India.
Some Portuguese missioners insisted that converts should eat meat and dress like foreigners and severe all links with Indian
cultures to become "pure Christians." Some even insisted on Indians giving up their Indian names and take Portuguese names
instead. Such insistences caused much heartburns and resistance among several communities in the 16-century.
De Nobili came with a new idea. He argued that faith and culture should not be mixed. In other words he preached that one
could become a Christian while retaining all aspects of Indian cultural traditions.
As if to illustrate his theory, he adopted the saffron dress and strict vegetarian food besides marking his brow with sandal
paste. He also wore the sacred thread across the breast as the Brahmins did. He also spotted a growing a tuft of hair (kudumi),
and followed the Hindu priestly class life-style. He learned Sanskrit and Hindu Scriptures.
Madurai was his main area of work but not without opposition from the Hindus of Madurai and even from the missioners and
ecclesiastical authorities. The Jesuits supported him and Pope Gregory XV approved the movement. It brought to Christianity
thousands of high caste as well as low caste Hindus.
Great Tamil scholars such as Constant Beschi, James de Rossi and others later led the movement. However the movement failed
in the 18th century as opposition hardened against cultural adaptations. Pope Benedict XIV banned such evangelizations in
The Madurai Mission
Jesuit Missioner Robert de Nobili is known for taking the Christian faith to the interiors of southern India. His mission
started in 1606 and centered on Madurai in Tamil Nadu. The indianization attempts he carried out helped attract upper caste
Hindus to Christianity, at a time when everything that the upper caste did was considered valuable. The mission thus helped
gain considerable respect for Christian religion.
John de Britto followed De Nobili to Tamil Nadu. He worked in the area of present Kumbakonam diocese. He also followed
the de Nobili methods, but concentrated on castes other than the Brahmin. He also labored in Marava country, the present Sivagangai
and Ramnad districts. His bold stand against immorality offended the king and he was martyred in 1693. Catholics believe the
sand that touched his blood turned red and still continues to be so. Thousands of people annually visit the martyrdom site
during his feast day to venerate the saint.
Constantine Joseph Beschi, called Veeramamunivar in Tamil, preached in the region in the 18th century. Besides evangelization,
he also made valuable contribution to literature. His works in Tamil poetry, prose, grammar, lexicography, translation, and
siddha medicine were all aimed at evangelization.
The Tamil people their next great missioner James de Rossi as Sinna Saveriar (Junior St. Francis Xavier). He worked around
Sarugani in 1736 and wrote simple pious books in Tamil on the lives of saints and on miracles for every day in the week. These
helped keep the faith alive among Catholics after the pope suppressed the Jesuit order in 1773.
After the Jesuit suppression was revoked in 1814, the first band of Jesuits came to Madurai mission in 1838. Their mission
faced opposition not only from the British government but also from Protestant Churches and the Padroado priests.
The mission became a Vicariate Apostolic in 1846. A concordat between the Holy See and Portugal in 1886 solved the controversy
In 1886 when Pope Leo XII established the Indian hierarchy, Tiruchirapalli was made a diocese. In 1914 Tuticorin was created
In 1938, the centenary year of Jesuits’ second arrival to Madurai Mission, Madurai was made a diocese. It became
an archdiocese in 1953.
Pope Gregory XV 1622 established the Congregation of Propaganda Fide, after he received several reports about major disorders
and abuses in carrying out the mission. The pope understood that the missions, hitherto left under colonial authorities, functioned
inadequately. At the same time he was mindful of the immense sacrifices of countless dedicated Portuguese and Spanish missioners.
The congregation was charged with fostering the spread of Catholicism and the regulation of ecclesiastical affairs in non-Catholic
countries. The importance of its duties and the extraordinary extent of its authority have caused the Cardinal Prefect of
Propaganda to be known as the "red pope.”
When the congregation was founded, the expansion of colonial administrations came largely under the Dutch and the British.
The two nations aided to the spread Protestant religious doctrines in the wake of emerging commercial empires. The spread
of Protestantism was a real threat to Catholicism.
Rome also found new fields for evangelization offered by vast regions of Asia, Africa and the Americas.
The new congregation, with farsightedness, envisaged promoting local vocations lest missioners and the Church be seen as
agents of a foreign power in eastern missions.
This move would prove to be of immense importance to the Indian Church, as it was laying foundations for an indigenous
hierarchy. The new system would also help religious congregations opt for missions.
The congregation's first move was to establish an ecclesiastical unit outside the Padroado system, under full authority
of the pope. In 1637, vicariate of Idalcan or Bijapur outside Padroado jurisdiction was established. The vicariate apostolic
of Bijapur was also called the vicariate apostolic of Great Mogul, because of the vast area it covered. The congregation also
chose Matteo de Castro, a Brahmin Christian of Goa to head the new vicariate.
But this was beginning of a long series of conflicts between the Padroado and Propaganda systems because Padroado people
refused to accept missionary congregations coming to areas, which they said, were under their custody.
By 1800 the British established supremacy in India, weakening the Portuguese power. Pope Gregory XVI used the changing
political equations to abolish the Padroado system outside the Portuguese territories in India. He also extended the Propaganda
system in these territories, establishing new Apostolic Vicariates.
The Hindustan-Tibet Mission
In 1703, the Congregation for the Propagation of Faith erected the Prefecture of Tibet - Hindustan and entrusted
it to the Capuchin Fathers. The first group of fathers reached Lhasa (Tibet) in 1707 and began work there. For nearly 41 years
the Capuchin Fathers worked in Lhasa until a religious persecution forced them to move to Kathmandu (Nepal) in 1745.
Since 1715 Capuchins have been working in Kathmandu. But situations changed with a new conqueror of Kathmandu valley, Raja
Pritvi Narayan. He had no sympathy for the Catholic missioners and stopped all support to them. The Mission of Nepal was abandoned
in 1769, and the priests with 62 Nepalese Christians and five catechumens moved to India.
The Nepalese Christians and catechumens settled down at Chuhari near Bettiah. The scene of the Capuchin Mission shifted
now to the Indian soil. Father Joseph Mary OFM Cap founded the Bettiah Mission in 1745 after the King of Bettiah, Raja Druva
Singh, had obtained permission from Pope Benedict XIV.
Rome erected the Prefecture of Tibet-Hindustan into a Vicariate in 1812. In 1827 an Independent Patna Vicariate was created,
comprising Bettiah, Chuhari, Patna City, Danapore, Bhagalpur, Darjeeling, Sikkim, Nepal and adjacent territories.
Capuchin Father Anastasius Hartmann was appointed its first Vicar Apostolic. With a decree of Pope Leo XIII Patna Vicariate
became part of Allahabad diocese in 1886. The North Bihar Mission with its four stations of Bettiah, Chuhari, Chakhani and
Latonah was entrusted to the Tyrolese Capuchins in 1886.
In May 1892, the North Bihar Mission was made Bettiah-Nepal Prefecture with Capuchin Father Hilarion of Abtei, as its first
prefect. In 1919 this prefecture was dissolved and attached to South Bihar to form the present diocese of Patna.
Pope Benedict XV by a Decree on September 10, 1919 divided Allahabad diocese to create Patna. The Prefecture of Bettiah-Nepal
was annexed to the new diocese. The Holy See entrusted Patna diocese to American Missouri Province of Jesuits.
Later, on November 13, 1930, after the division of Missouri Province, Patna diocese was entrusted to the Chicago Province
of the Society of Jesus. Louis Van Hoeck, SJ was ordained the first Bishop of Patna in 1921.
The Third Order Regular Franciscan Fathers from Pennsylvania, USA came to Patna diocese to assist the Jesuits in 1938.
The mission stations of Bhagalpur, Gokhla, Poreyahat and Godda were assigned to them. In 1956 Bhagalpur was made a Prefecture
and in 1965 a diocese with Father Urban Mc Garry TOR, as its first bishop.
The forbidden Kingdom of Nepal was once again open in 1951, thanks to the efforts of Jesuit Father Marshall Moran. Nepal
was made an independent ecclesiastical unit in 1984 and Jesuit Father Antony Sharma was appointed to head it.
On March 28, 1980, Pope John Paul II accepted the resignation of Jesuit Bishop Augustine Wildermuth, and divided Patna
diocese into two: Patna and Muzaffarpur. Jesuit Benedict J Osta was appointed Bishop of Patna.