Catholic Church in India
There are over 19.9 million Catholics in India, which represents around 1.55% of the total population and the Catholic church is the largest Christian church within India. There are 166 dioceses in India organised into 30 provinces. Of these, 129 are Latin Rite, 29 Syro-Malabar Rite and 8 Syro-Malankara Rite dioceses. India has the second largest Catholic population in Asia, after the Philippines.
All the bishops in India, both Western and Eastern, form the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, which was founded in 1944. The Holy See's representative to the government of India and to the Church in India is the Apostolic Nuncio to India. The diplomatic mission was established as the Apostolic Delegation to the East Indies in 1881. It was raised to an Internunciature by Pope Pius XII in 1948 and to a full Apostolic Nunciature by Pope Paul VI in 1967.
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Early Christianity in India
Christiantiy reached India in AD 52 when Thomas the Apostle reached Muziris in the Malabar Coast. He preached Christianity in Eastern and Western coasts of India  These Saint Thomas Christians are known as Nasrani, which is a Syriac term meaning Follower of the Nazarene Jesus. The Christian community in India later came under the jurisdiction of Bishops from Persia. Historians estimate this date to be around fourth century. As a result, they inherited East Syriac liturgy and traditions of Persia. Later, when the Western missionaries reached India, they accused this community of practicing Nestorianism, a heresy that separates Christ's divinity from his human nature. However, many historians have rejected that the community was Nestorian and assert that this community was indeed practicing the Catholic faith in East Syriac traditions, before the arrival of European missionaries. Today, the continuity of this early Christian community is found in the Syro-Malabar Church, an Oriental Church in communion with Rome, following East Syrian traditions.
John of Monte Corvino, was a Franciscan sent to China to become prelate of Peking in around 1307. He traveled from Persia and moved down by sea to India, in 1291, to the Madras region or “Country of St. Thomas” .There he preached for thirteen months and baptized about one hundred persons. From there Monte Corvino wrote home, in December 1291 (or 1292).That is one of the earliest noteworthy account of the Coromandel coast furnished by any Western European. Traveling by sea from Mailapur, he reached China in 1294, appearing in the capital “Cambaliech” (now Beijing)
Friar Odoric of Pordenone arrived in India in 1321. He visited Malabar, touching at Pandarani (20 m. north of Calicut), at Cranganore, and at Kulam or Quilon, proceeding thence, apparently, to Ceylon and to the shrine of St Thomas at Maylapur near Madras. He writes he had found the place where Thomas was buried.
Father Jordanus Catalani, a French Dominican missionary, followed in 1321-22. He reported to Rome, apparently from somewhere on the west coast of India, that he had given Christian burial to four martyred monks. Jordanus is known for his 1329 “Mirabilia” describing the marvels of the East: he furnished the best account of Indian regions and the Christians, the products, climate, manners, customs, fauna and flori given by any European in the Middle Ages - superior even to Marco Polo’s.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Quilon or Kollam is the first Catholic diocese in India in the state of Kerala. First erected on 9 August 1329 and re-erected on 1 September 1886.In 1329 Pope John XXII (in captivity at Avignon ) erected Quilon as the first Diocese in the whole of Indies as suffragan to the Archdiocese of Sultany in Persia through the decree "Romanus Pontifix" dated 9 th August 1329 . By a separate Bull "Venerabili Fratri Jordano", the same Pope, on 21 August 1329 appointed the French Dominican friar Jordanus Catalani de Severac as the first Bishop of Quilon. ( Copies of the Orders and the related letters issued by His Holiness Pope John XXII to Bishop Jordanus Catalani and to the diocese of Quilon are documented and preserved in the diocesan archives). In 1347, Giovanni de Marignolli visited the shrine of St Thomas near the modern Madras, and then proceeded to what he calls the kingdom of Saba, and identifies with the Sheba of Scripture, but which seems from various particulars to have been Java. Taking ship again for Malabar on his way to Europe, he encountered great storms.
Another prominent Indian traveler was Joseph, priest over Cranganore. He journeyed to Babylon in 1490 and then sailed to Europe and visited Portugal, Rome, and Venice before returning to India. He helped to write a book about his travels titled The Travels of Joseph the Indian which was widely disseminated across Europe.
Arrival of the Portuguese
In 1453, the fall of Constantinople, a bastion of Christianity in Asia Minor to Islamic Ottoman Empire; marked the end of the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantine Empire, and severed European trade links by land with Asia. This massive blow to Christendom spurred the age of discovery as Europeans were seeking alternative routes east by sea along with the goal of forging alliances with pre-existing Christian nations. Along with pioneer Portuguese long-distance maritime travelers that reached the Malabar Coast in the late 15th century; came Portuguese missionaries who introduced the Latin church in India. They made contact with the St Thomas Christians in Kerala, which at that time were following Eastern Christian practices and were under the jurisdiction of Church of the East.
In the 16th century, the proselytization of Asia was linked to the Portuguese colonial policy. The Papal bull - Romanus Pontifex written on 8 January 1455 by Pope Nicholas V to King Afonso V of Portugal, confirmed to the Crown of Portugal dominion over all lands discovered or conquered during the age of discovery. Further, the patronage for the propagation of the Christian faith (see "Padroado") in Asia was given to the Portuguese. The missionaries of the different orders (Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits, Augustinians, etc.) flocked out with the conquerors, and began at once to build churches along the coastal districts where the Portuguese power made itself felt.
The history of Portuguese missionaries in India starts with the neo-apostles who reached Kappad near Kozhikode on 20 May 1498 along with the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama who was seeking to form anti-Islamic alliances with pre-existing Christian nations. The lucrative spice trade was further temptation for the Portuguese crown. When he and the Portuguese missionaries arrived they found no Christians in the country, except in Malabar known as St. Thomas Christians who represented less than 2% of the total population and the then largest Christian church within India. The Christians were friendly to Portuguese missionaries at first; there was an exchange of gifts between them, and these groups were delighted at their common faith.
During the second expedition, the Portuguese fleet comprising 13 ships and 18 priests, under Captain Pedro Álvares Cabral, anchored at Cochin on Nov. 26, 1500. Cabral soon won the goodwill of the Raja of Cochin. He allowed four priests to do apostolic work among the early Christian communities scattered in and around Cochin. Thus Portuguese missionaries established Portuguese Mission in 1500. Dom Francisco de Almeida, the first Portuguese Viceroy got permission from the Kochi Raja to build two church edifices - namely Santa Cruz Basilica (Founded : 1505) and St. Francis Church (Founded : 1506) using stones and mortar which was unheard of at that time as the local prejudices were against such a structure for any purpose other than a royal palace or a temple.
In the beginning of the 16th century, the whole of the east was under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Lisbon. On June 12, 1514, Cochin and Goa became two prominent mission stations under the newly created Diocese of Funchal in Madeira. In 1534, Pope Paul III by the Bull Quequem Reputamus, raised Funchal as an archdiocese and Goa as its suffragan, deputing the whole of India under the diocese of Goa. This created an episcopal see - suffragan to Funchal, with a jurisdiction extending potentially over all past and future conquests from the Cape of Good Hope to China.
After four decades of prosperous trading, the missionaries started the proselytization around 1540 and the newly founded Society of Jesus arrived in Goa. The Portuguese colonial government supported the mission and the baptized Christians were given incentives like rice donations, good positions in their colonies. Hence, these Christians were dubbed Rice Christians who even practiced their old religion. At the same time many New Christians from Portugal migrated to India as a result of the inquisition in Portugal. Many of them were suspected of being Crypto-Jews, converted Jews who were secretly practicing their old religion. Both were considered a threat to the solidarity of Christian belief. Saint Francis Xavier, in a 1545 letter to John III of Portugal, requested the Goan Inquisition, which is considered a blot on the history of Roman Catholic Christianity in India, both by Christians and non-Christians alike.
In 1557, Goa was made an independent archbishopric, and its first suffragan sees were erected at Cochin and Malacca. The whole of the East came under the jurisdiction of Goa and its boundaries extended to almost half of the world: from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, to Burma, China and Japan in East Asia. In 1576 the suffragan See of Macao (China) was added; and in 1588, that of Funai in Japan.
The death of the last metropolitan bishop - Archdeacon Abraham of the Saint Thomas Christians, an ancient body formerly part of the Church of the East in 1597; gave the then Archbishop of Goa Menezes an opportunity to bring the native church under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. He was able to secure the submission of Archdeacon George, the highest remaining representative of the native church hierarchy. Menezes convened the Synod of Diamper between 20 and 26 June 1599, which introduced a number of reforms to the church and brought it fully into the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. Following the Synod, Menezes consecrated Francis Ros, S. J. as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Angamalé for the Saint Thomas Christians; thus created another suffragan see to Archdiocese of Goa and Latinisation of St Thomas Christians started. The Saint Thomas Christians were pressured to acknowledge the authority of the Pope and most of them eventually accepted the Catholic faith, but a part of them switched to West Syrian Rite. Resentment of these measures led to some part of the community to join the Archdeacon, Thomas, in swearing never to submit to the Portuguese or to accept the Communion with Rome in the Coonan Cross Oath in 1653. Those who accepted the West Syrian theological and liturgical tradition of Mar Gregorios became known as Jacobites. The ones who continued with East Syrian and Latin theological and liturgical tradition and stayed faithful to the Synod of Diamper and the Roman Catholic Church came to be formally known as the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church from the second half of the 19th century onward.
The Diocese of Angamaly was transferred to Diocese of Craganore in 1605; while, in 1606 a sixth suffragan see to Goa was established at San Thome, Mylapore, near the modern Madras. The suffragan sees added later to Goa. were the prelacy of Mozambique (1612) and in 1690 two other sees at Peking and Nanking in China.
Missionary work progressed on a large scale and with great success along the western coasts, chiefly at Chaul, Bombay, Salsette, Bassein, Damao, and Diu; and on the eastern coasts at San Thome of Mylapore, and as far as Bengal etc. In the southern districts the Jesuit mission in Madura was the most famous. It extended to the Krishna river, with a number of outlying stations beyond it. The mission of Cochin, on the Malabar Coast, was also one of the most fruitful.Several missions were also established in the interior northwards, e.g., that of Agra and Lahore in 1570 and that of Tibet in 1624. Still, even with these efforts, the greater part even of the coast line was by no means fully worked, and many vast tracts of the interior northwards were practically untouched.
With the decline of the Portuguese power, other colonial powers - namely the Dutch and British and Christian organisations gained influence.
Other than the St Thomas Christians, people of other faiths were converted zealously by the Portuguese. This started with Goa, then spread to Cape Comorin, inland districts of Madurai and the western coast of Bassein, Salcette, Bombay, Karanja, and Chaul. With the advent of suppression of Jesuits in 1773 the missionary expansion declined in India along with the need for organisations within the Church in India. Especially when the Vicar Apostolate of Bombay was erected in 1637 which was under the direct ruling from Rome, caused misunderstanding between the Portuguese missionary and the Apostolate. The Inquisition of Goa had caused strained relationship and mistrust with the Hindus of India The strained relations between the Church and the Portuguese missionaries reached a climax when in 1838 the Holy See cancelled the jurisdiction of the three suffragan Sees of Crangaqnore, Cochin, and Mylapur and transferred it to the nearest vicars Apostolic, and did the same with regard to certain portions of territory which had formerly been under the authority of Goa itself. Finally in 1886 another concordat was established, and at the same time the whole country was divided into ecclesiastical provinces, and certain portions of territory, withdrawn in 1838, were restored to the jurisdiction of the Portuguese sees.
Concern with charity was common to Catholics and Protestants, but with one major difference: whilst the former believe that salvation comes from faith in God which manifests itself in good works such as charity, the latter could not rely on such a possibility, since they believe that only one's faith is a requisite of salvation, and that one's works are insufficient to gain or lose salvation. Consequently, Catholic charitable efforts in India have been extensive.
In Portuguese India, for instance, Saint Francis Xavier and his fellow missionaries were especially careful to help the local charitable institutions by tending to the sick, both spiritually and physically, and performing other works of mercy. The Jesuits' educational institutions, although never succeeding in missionary activities, had left a prestigious impact through their education institutions. Education has become the major priority for the Church in India in recent years with nearly 60% of the Catholic schools situated in rural areas. Even in the early part of the 19th century, Catholic schools had left its emphasis on relief for the poor and welfare.
- Statistics for 2011
- Bishop: 168
- Total number of diocesan priests: 9,301
- Religious Priests: 6,765
- Religious Brothers: 2,528
- Religious Sisters: 50,112
- Colleges and schools: 14,429
- Training Institutes: 1,086
- Hospitals and dispensaries: 1,826
- Publications: 292
Catholic Servants of God, Venerables, Beatified, and Saints from India
The following are some notable Servants of God, Venerables, Beatified, and Saints of the Catholic Church in India:
- St. Thomas the Apostle (Mar Thoma Shliha), The Apostle of India, Head and Father of Saint Thomas Christians or Syrian Christians of Kerala.
- St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- St. Gonsalo Garcia (1556-1597), First person to be canonized with partial Indian origin. - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- St. John de Brito (1647-1693) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Marth Alphonsa (1910-1946), First person of Indian origin to be canonized. - Syro-Malabar
- Joseph Vaz, (1651-1711) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Devasahayam Pillai, (1712 - 1752) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Mar Kuriakose Chavara (1805-1871) - Syro-Malabar
- Marth Maria Theresa Chiramel (1876-1926) - Syro-Malabar
- Marth Euphrasia Eluvathingal (1877-1952) - Syro-Malabar
- Mar Augustinose Kunjachan (1891–1973) - Syro-Malabar
- Mother Teresa (1910-1997) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Anastasius Hartmann, (1803-1866) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Fr Aurelian of The Blessed Sacrement OCD, (1887-1963) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Agnelo de Souza, (1869-1927) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Mar Thomas Kurialachery, (1872-1925) - Syro-Malabar
- Mar Mathew Kadalikattil, (1872-1935) - Syro-Malabar
Servants of God
- Mother Eliswa, (1831-1913) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Mar Mathew Makil, (1851-1914) - Syro-Malabar
- Fr Constant Lievens SJ, (1856-1893) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Mar Joseph Vithayathil, (1865-1964) - Syro-Malabar
- Mar Tommiyachan Poothathil, (1871-1943) - Syro-Malabar
- Raymond Francis Camillus Mascarenhas, (1875-1960) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Mar Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly (1876-1929) - Syro-Malabar
- Mar Augustine John Ukken (1880-1956) - Syro-Malabar
- Mar Geevarghese Ivanios, (1882-1953) - Syro-Malankara
- Fr Zacharias, OCD (1887-1957) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Mar Joseph C. Panjikaran (1888-1949) - Syro-Malabar
- Mar Antony Thachuparampil, (1894-1963) - Syro-Malabar
- Msgr. Lawrence Puliyanath (1898-1961) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Mar Mathew Kavukatt (1904-1969) - Syro-Malabar
- Msgr. Reynolds Purackal (1910-1988) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Fr Theophane OFM CAP (1913-1969) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Paula Monnigmann (Mother Petra), (1924-1976) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Marth Maria Celine Kannanaikal, UMI (1931-1957) - Syro-Malabar
- Marth Rani Maria Vattalil (1954-1995) - Syro-Malabar
- Mar Thommachen Puthenparampil - Syro-Malabar
- Bishop Stefano Ferrando, (1895-1978) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Francesco Convertini, SDB (1898-1976) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Bishop Oreste Marengo, (1906-1998) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Fr. Constantine Vendrame, (1893-1957) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Sr. Fernanda Riva, (1920-1956) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Joseph Thamby, (1883-1945) - Roman Catholic (Latin)
- Factfile: Roman Catholics around the world on BBC news.
- Catholic Bishops Conference of India on CBCI website.
- Stephen Andrew Missick.Mar Thoma: The Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church and the Christians of St. Thomas in India. Journal of Assyrian Academic studies.
- Were these Christians infected with Nestorianism before 1599? on Catholic Encyclopedia entry on St. Thomas Christians.
- Mar Thomma Margam by Pathikulangara Varghese Kathanar
- Odoric of Pordenone (Nendeen, Liechenstein, 1967), Henry Yule, trans. Cathy and the Way Thither vol. II ,P-142.
- "Byzantine-Ottoman Wars: Fall of Constantinople and spurring "age of discovery"". Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- "Overview of Age of Exploration". Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- See full text pp.13-20 (Latin) and pp.20-26 (English) in European Treaties Bearing on the History of the United States and Its Dependencies to 1648, ed. Frances Gardiner Davenport (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1917-37) - Google Books. Reprint edition, 4 vols., (October 2004),Lawbook Exchange, ISBN 1-58477-422-3
- Daus, Ronald (1983). Die Erfindung des Kolonialismus. Wuppertal/Germany: Peter Hammer Verlag. p. 33. ISBN 3-87294-202-6.(German)
- Britannica CD 97, S.V “Gama, Vasco da “
- Vasco da Gama collection on University of Michigan
- Megan Galbraith Catholic Church of India Responds with Leadership Field note on Glocal Health Council website.
- Mathias Mundadan, (1967), “The Arrival of Portuguese in India and Saint Thomas Christians under Mar Jacob”
- Daus, Ronald (1983). Die Erfindung des Kolonialismus. Wuppertal/Germany: Peter Hammer Verlag. pp. 61–66. ISBN 3-87294-202-6.(German)
- Paul Axelrod, Michelle A. Fuerch Flight of the Deities: Hindu Resistance in Portuguese Goa Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 30, No. 2 (May, 1996), pp. 387-421
- Frykenberg, p. 93.
- Wilmshurst, EOCE, 343
- Synod of Diamper on Synod of Diamper Church website.
- India on Catholic Encyclopedia.
- The Catholic Frontier in India; 16-17th century from The Free library.
- Archdiocese of Bombay on Catholic Herarchy website.
- Isabel dos Guimarães Sá Catholic Charity in Perspective: The Social Life of Devotion in Portugal and its Empire (1450-1700) Journal of Portuguese History. Vol.2, number 1, Summer 2004.
- Catholic education in India The New York Times, June 6, 1887.
- Card. Toppo: “Education is the Churches priority mission and key to Indian development” Asia News.
- J. Hutching THE CATHOLIC POOR SCHOOLS, 1800 to 1845: Part 1 The Catholic Poor-relief, welfare and schools Journal of Educational Administration and History, Volume 1, Issue 2 June 1969 , pages 1 - 8.
- Since he is the son of a Portuguese father and an Indian mother. He is considered by the Catholic church as to be a Portuguese Saint.
- Kerala celebrating St-Alphonsa, first Indian saint
- Bishop Anastasius Hartmann
- Christopher Becker, SDB, The Catholic Church in Northeast India 1890-1915, Revised & edited by Sebastian Karotemprel, S.D.B., Becker Institute Sacred Heart Theological College: Shillong 2007, 488 pp., ISBN 81-85408-00-37
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