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Part III

Mission of the Congregation
Profile of TN Region
Regional Superior and Councilors
Members of the Region
Parishes and Institutions
Mission Abroad
Important Dates To be Remembered
Superior General
Contact Us
Sunday Reflection
Other Links
Prayer Requests
Indian Church History


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 truth."

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 life.


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 convictions.

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 Beijing.

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 1744.

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 over jurisdiction.

In 1886 when Pope Leo XII established the Indian hierarchy, Tiruchirapalli was made a diocese. In 1914 Tuticorin was created a diocese.

In 1938, the centenary year of Jesuits’ second arrival to Madurai Mission, Madurai was made a diocese. It became an archdiocese in 1953.

Propaganda Fide

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.