Category Archives: Exclusivist religions

Church Priority over Last 400 Years: Social Justice or Conversion?

Christians across the world decry evils of the Hindu caste system and lose no opportunity to blame the Hindu religion for the same, ignoring that caste, segregation and untouchability were given sanction by the Pope

On December 3, 2020, protests erupted in front of the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore at Puducherry as Dalit Christians demanded justice in the appointment of Dalit priests and total exclusion of Dalit Christians from the management of church affairs. The very word “Dalit Christian” is an oxymoron as Christianity boasts profusely about its egalitarian nature with no scope whatsoever for any discrimination.

“We have come here to dialogue with the diocesan administration to eradicate caste discrimination and the untouchable practices in the archdiocese especially in the appointment of the Dalit priests,” —Mary John, Tamil Nadu State Leader for Dalit Christian Liberation Movement

Protests like these expose the naked discrimination these converts from Hinduism endure after embracing Christianity. This brings to the question of whether the focus of the Church in India is social justice (as professed) or conversions? Has Christianity ever tried to ensure social justice even as it went about converting Hindus in India?

Was Christianity ever egalitarian?

The earliest Christian clergymen to arrive in India were from Europe. 16th Century Europe was not a society well known for its egalitarianism. On the contrary, several sections of the society were ostracised, treated as outcasts. The treatment of Roma gipsies, who had migrated from India to various parts of Europe around 600-800 years ago is a case in point. Their discrimination continues to this day with massive pogroms and attacks. Under Nazi Hitler, at least 15 lakh Roma were put to death.

The Cagots of Europe were treated as outcasts and forced to live on the edge of the villages. The Cagots were subjected to hate-filled discrimination for nearly 700 years. Shunned as lepers, pagans, and even cannibals, they were forced to live in ghettos called cagoteries where they were only permitted the occupations of carpenter, butcher, or executioner. When they were permitted entrance to a Church (in many cases they were refused admittance), they were segregated from the rest of the congregation, and the Eucharist was handed to them at the end of a long stick. They were compelled to wear the sign of a duck or goosefoot in red.

Church’s cruel history in India

European clergymen arriving in India were part of a society, which openly practiced discrimination against certain sections of the society, where hanging to death of non-Christians was officially sanctioned and where women were routinely executed for practicing witchcraft (last witch execution took place in Scotland 1727). Execution of those practicing non-Christian beliefs continued till 1826. Intolerance of non-Christian faiths, social discrimination were an integral part of European society at the time of arrival of the earliest Christian missionaries were landing in India. It is no wonder that they never tried to create an egalitarian Christian society in India. On the contrary, they used caste divisions in Hindu society for furthering their objective of conversions into Christianity. One such Christian missionary was Robert de Nobili.

Deception as a method to convert gullible Hindus

The methods adopted by Robert Di Nobili to convert Hindus and expand Christianity in India are a case in point. Born in 1577 in Italy, he came to India as a priest of the Society of Jesus. He arrived in India in 1605 and moved to Madurai in 1606. He found that existing methods of converting Hindus were not effective. He adopted new ways which bordered on deception to convince Hindus to convert. He donned saffron robes, shaved his head, leaving a tuft of hair, wore wooden sandals and called himself ‘Tattva Bodhagar’ – Teacher of Wisdom. He called himself a Roman Brahmin and wore the sacred thread. The Bible became Vedam, Church became ‘Koil’ (Tamil word for Hindu temple). The pastor became ‘Guru’. He mastered Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu languages. This attracted a large number of Hindus who genuinely believed that what Robert De Nobili was teaching was yet another branch of Hinduism. He appeared as the Teacher of the fourth Veda, a Veda revealed indeed by God not to the Rishis of India, but to the messengers of God’s only son. He insisted that he was a Sannyasi from Rome. He called Christianity ‘parangui kulam’ (Parangui = Firangi or Foreign).

Robert di Nobili practiced blatant caste discrimination to further his objective- convert Hindus into Christianity. Since he was pretending to be a Roman Brahmin, if a Paria got sick, de Nobili would not see him in his wretched hut, but he insisted that he should be brought out of the house. He used to meet fellow Jesuit priests only at night, in total darkness.

Inquisition of de Nobili and approval of Pope

The methods adopted by De Nobili viz., creating caste-wise missionaries, churches and allowing Hindu caste marks to be used even after conversion to Christianity attracted the attention of church authorities and an Inquisition was held against him. Archbishop Menezes declared himself in favor of the new methods and said ‘he would be ready to allow wearing 100 Brahmin chords for the salvation of one soul’.

One hundred and eight learned Brahmins added their testimony to de Nobili’s testimony and fully confirmed his interpretation of their marks and customs.

In January 1623, the methods and tactics of de Nobili were approved by Pope, Christianity’s highest office…! Caste and caste marks were officially allowed in Christianity. A more amusing aspect of the Papal sanction was the creation of Christian yagnopaveetam (janeu) and “Christian Upanayanam” or sacred thread ceremony which will be performed in the Church…!

The Cagots of Europe were treated as outcasts and forced to live on the edge of the villages. The Cagots were subjected to hate-filled discrimination for nearly 700 years. Shunned as lepers, pagans, and even cannibals, they were forced to live in ghettos called cagoteries
The approval letter reads: “The chord should not be received in the temple, or from one of their priests, but from a Catholic priest, who upon conferring it, should recite the prescribed prayers”. The pagan prayers and mantras which used to be learnt upon receiving the chord, should not be learnt, but rather should be confined to perpetual oblivion… The chord, made up of three strands, should not be made so in honour of their idols, but rather in honour of the Blessed Trinity. The converts, who have already received the chord, should burn the old one, and receive a new one from the Catholic priest. Thus untouchability which finds neither mention nor sanction in Hindu religious scriptures just got the seal of approval from Christianity’s highest office – The Pope! This clearly demonstrates that social justice and social reform were of little importance to the Church when the goal is to harvest souls. The Inquisition against him concluded “We judge it altogether expedient, in order that our holy religion may be propagated in those lands, that the Brahmins and others, who are being initiated, be allowed to wear those marks, which more than religious signs, may be deemed to be signs of caste, nobility or wisdom. If something superstitious has been added, let it be dropped, and let the intention be purified.”

All the while, the Hindu religion was going through a phase of internal renewal and renaissance with the rise of a number of great social reformers like Basavanna, Ramanujacharya and the rise of the Bhakti cult. These reformers and saints strived to eliminate undesirable customs and social practices that had crept into the Hindu society. No such efforts on the part of Christian missionaries in this direction are found. Even the temple entry movements, the abolition of untouchability movements were led by Hindu social reformers themselves.

The invention of ‘Brahmin’ and ‘Pariah’

Robert de Nobili created two distinct classes of native missionaries- Brahmins and Pandaraswamis. The latter were drawn predominantly from what is described as ‘Pariah’ castes and used to proselytize amongst them and prepare catechumens from amongst them. The first of these Pandaraswamis were Father Balthazar da Costa and Emmanuel Alvarez. The Brahmin missionaries sporting Brahmanical attire with sikha and sacred thread used to proselytise amongst upper-caste Hindus. The first Brahmin missionary was Father S. Maya. He always accompanied di Nobili whenever the latter went to meet royals, nobles and Brahmins. Di Nobili was always attired in saffron robes, sacred thread, carried Kamandala, while his disciple carried the deerskin and the umbrella of honour.

A ground plan of the Church constructed by di Nobili shows how caste and untouchability were made part of church architecture. The plan shows that the main church entrance was reserved for high castes, while the pariah castes had to use a different entrance. Every aspect of worship – altar, communion, confession room, common space, kitchen and even courtyard were strictly segregated for high castes and pariahs. The pariahs had to listen to the mass through an opening in the wall which segregated them from high caste converts. This is extremely shocking even by standards of the day and reveals the complete indifference of the Church towards social inequalities. On the contrary, such inequalities were skilfully exploited to further the cause of conversions.

Thus for more than 400 years, the Church has given priority to conversions rather than social justice. Caste inequalities were exploited for furthering soul harvesting. The result is there for all to see. In 2008, violent clashes broke out in Eraiyur in Tamil Nadu between Christians from OBC and SC castes. The clashes were a fall out of Dalit Christians starting their own Church in protest against discrimination and practice of untouchability in churches and seeking recognition from the Diocese. In the police firing that followed, two people were killed. Several churches in the area were locked up by Dalit Christians. There are many instances of walls inside churches and cemeteries. In 2011, clashes erupted in Thachur village, 80 km from Chennai on the issue of burial of Dalit Christians to which the Reddy Christians objected. According to an article published in The Frontline magazine, the Church is constructed with a star shape. The central portion is reserved for Reddy Christians who manage the Church while the sides are earmarked for converts from SC castes like Adi Dravidars and Arundathiyars who have no role in the management of the Church. In another cemetery in Trichy, the deceased Christians are buried on either side of the wall depending upon their caste.

A ground plan of the Church constructed by Di Nobili shows how caste and untouchability were made part of church architecture. The plan shows that the main church entrance was reserved for high castes, while the pariah castes had to use a different entrance

Christians across the world bad mouth evils of the Hindu caste system and lose no opportunity to blame the Hindu religion for the same, completely ignoring that caste, segregation and untouchability were given sanction by the Pope as seen earlier. The Church does not object to the continuation of the use of Hindu caste suffixes as part of the name, several generations after conversion to Christianity. In Andhra Pradesh, one can find third or fourth generation Christian converts using suffixes like ‘Reddy’ ‘Chowdary’ etc.

In the 21st century, if people like Mary John are forced to launch agitations through like Dalit Christian Liberation Movements, it is because the Church did not work towards social justice but exploited social inequalities to further its cause of conversions.

(The writer is a Sr. Associate at Centre for South Indian Studies, Hyderabad)

Source: https://csisindia.com/2021/05/05/church-priority-over-last-400-years-social-justice-or-conversion/

Payment of monthly honorarium to religious workers by Govt. of AP –Will it stand Judicial scrutiny

By: K. Sahadev

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has issued orders vide GENERAL ADMINISTRATION (SC.I) DEPARTMENT G.O.MS.No. 52 Dated: 14-05-2021, enhancing financial support to the religious workers in places of worship of two important religious communities of the State viz., Hindus, Muslims. In the case of Christians, it is a new scheme. It leaves out three other minorities- Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists.

The present G.O cites “ensuring religious harmony” in the state as the main objective of payment of monthly honorarium to religious workers of different religions. The G.O. further mentions extension of payment to functionaries working in churches is similar to the support being given to the Archakas working in temples and Imams/Muezzins working in mosques. However, this is a false comparison as the G.O. very clear states that quantum of payment to Archakas is based on grade of the temple, which in turn depends upon income generated by the temple. It clearly means that Hindu temple archakas are NOT paid out of public exchequer.

The Scheme for Payment of Honorarium to Imams and Muezzins of Mosques in Andhra Pradesh commenced in June 2016. The G.O. mentions that:

The scheme for payment of Honorarium to the selected Imams and Muezzins of the non-income earning Masjids in the State of Andhra Pradesh is intended to support the Andhra Pradesh State Waqf Board since the Board is not in a position to meet the expenditure. The Andhra Pradesh State Waqf Board shall take steps to strengthen the respective Waqf institutions to attain self-sufficiency to meet the expenditure.

The latest order marks the beginning of state funding of religious workers in Andhra Pradesh. Promoting communal harmony was not the objective stated at in 2016. The new G.O. not only increased the quantum of payment for Muslim religious workers but also introduced payment of monthly honorarium for Christian religious workers. But by including the enhancement of honorarium for Hindu archakas in this G.O., an impression is sought to be given out that even they are being paid out of state exchequer, which is factually incorrect. State is yet to show any concern towards Hindu archakas rendering their services in temples without any income. On the contrary, state is meddling with Hindu religious institutions through legislation and administrative actions by arbitrarily fixing the remuneration of Archakas, grading of temples, appointing Executive Officers, interfering in dharmic rituals of temples, disposing off temple assets etc.

CAN PUBLIC FUNDS BE USED FOR PAYMENT TO RELIGIOUS WORKERS?

This raises the larger question whether the public money can be used to pay individuals of a particular religion with the purported objective of ensuring communal harmony?

In 2012, the Government of West Bengal issued instructions for payment of monthly honorarium to Imams in mosques. The decision was challenged in Calcutta High court (W.P. No. 358 of 2012) and the decision of the government was quashed. The highlight of the judgement are:

1) The State Government cannot spend any money for the benefit of few individuals of a particular religious community ignoring the identically placed individuals of the other religious communities since the State cannot discriminate on the ground of religion in view of the Article 15 (1) of the Constitution of India.

2) The State Government by providing funds for making payment of honorarium to the Imams and Muezzins has acted in clear violation of the provisions enshrined under Article 14 and 15 (1) of the Constitution of India.

3) No exercise has been made by the Competent Authority of the State Government to ascertain the financial condition of various other members of the Muslim community as well as members of other religious communities before taking the decision for issuing the impugned memorandum.

4) The public purpose mentioned in Article 282 cannot be a purpose which offends the provisions of Article 14 and 15 (1) of the Constitution of India.

5) Imams and/or Muezzins are few individuals of the Muslim community and attached with the mosques. Decision to provide honorarium to the said individuals cannot serve the general interest of the community as a whole.

6) We hold that the impugned memo issued by the State Government is not only discriminatory in nature being violate of Article 14 of the Constitution of India but the same also discriminates on the ground of religion which offends Article 15 (1) of the Constitution of India.

7) We are constrained to hold that the grants made by the State Government for providing honorarium to the Imams and Muezzins were not for the public purpose as mentioned in Article 282 of the Constitution of India

8) Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Sri Divi Kodandarama Saram & Ors. Vs. State of A. P. & Ors., reported in 1997 (6) SCC 189 considered the payment of salary to ‘Archaka’ of Hindu Temple. In the aforesaid decision, Hon’ble Supreme Court made it clear that public fund cannot be utilised for the purpose of making payment of Archakas and trust looking after the temple was advised to collect donation from the public to defray the expenses.

9) No provision has however, been made in the Constitution authorising the State Government to make payment of the honorarium to few individuals of a particular religious community. As a matter of fact, Government cannot spend any money for the benefit of few individuals of a particular religious community to the exclusion of the members of the other religious communities in view of a specific provision of Article 15 (1) of the Constitution.

10) The concerned Executives of the State Government have squandered public money by releasing funds to the Wakf Board for the purpose of making payment of monthly honorarium to the Muezzins even in absence of any government order under Article 166 of the Constitution of India. We take strong exception for spending money even in absence of appropriate government order under Article 166 of the Constitution of India.

Thus it is very clear that payment to religious workers from public funds has been held to be “squandering of public money”. The objective cited in the Govt. of AP G.O. i.e., “communal harmony” also fails to stand judicial scrutiny in view of observation (5) cited in the above judgement. The judges have clearly held that payment to few individuals of a particular community does not serve the interests of all members of that community, leave alone serving promotion of inter-faith communal harmony.

The judgement also referred to a judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in a matter of payment of honorarium to Imams. The hon’ble court clarified that the scheme formulated by the SC was for payment of a uniform scale of salary to Imams from the income of the respective state Wakf Boards and not public funds.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the aforesaid decision never directed the State Government or the Govt. of India to take the responsibility for making payment to the Imams who are admittedly performing the duty of leading the community prayer in the mosques.

KERALA HC JUNE 2021:

June 2021, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday asked the state government, why they were financing a religious activity while considering a petition against the former’s decision to provide pension to madrasa teachers in the state. The order was  issued on a petition filed seeking to quash the Kerala Madrasa Teachers’ Welfare Fund Act, 2019, which is passed for disbursing pension and other benefits to madrasa teachers.

This is an ongoing case but it is pertinent to note that courts have consistently upheld the view that governments cannot finance any religious activity and such actions are unconstitutional. Article 46 of the Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution of India call upon the state to “promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people”.

Anomalies observed in recent payment of honorarium to religious workers in Andhra Pradesh:

In May, 2020, the Government of Andhra Pradesh made a one-time payment to religious workers who are facing hardship and distress of various religious institutions, as a measure of relief arising out of break out of COVID-19 Pandemic. A sum of Rs.33.92 crores was sanctioned out of Disaster Relief funds. The ratio of religious workers to population of that religion as per 2011 was highly irrational. While Christians constituted 1.39 % of the population of AP, Christian religious workers received 43.99 % of total amount paid out. Every 24th Christian in the state is a religious worker, if we go by 2011 census figures for the state of AP.

ANDHRA PRADESH – ONE TIME PAYMENT FROM DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS TO RELIGIOUS SERVICE RENDERERS – RELIGION-WISE FIGURES OF BENEFICIARIES VIS-À-VIS STATE POPULATION

POPULATION OF AP as per Census 2011% OF POPULATON% OF BENEFICIARES: TOTAL BENEFICIARIESTOTAL BENEFICIARIES
HINDUS4,48,75,69890.86 %45.70 %31,017
MUSLIMS36,17,7137.33 %10.31 %7,000
CHRISTIANS6,82,6601.39 %43.99 %29,841
OTHERS2,10,7280.42 %0.00 %0
TOTAL4,93,86,799100.00 %100.00 %67,858

This lead to a peculiar situation wherein, in some areas, the number of Christian religious workers was more than the actual number of Christians in the area. Sample figures from Prakasam district:

MANDALCHRISTIANSNO. OF PASTORS
Naguluppalapadu8475
Ballikurava8449
Pedda Aravidu1633

In addition, data obtained through RTI queries on the details of Christian religious workers who were paid honorarium showed that 60 % of Christian pastors in the sample were holding Hindu community certificates. This raised many questions and exposed a lack of strict scrutiny in the processing of applications for sanction of honorarium to religious workers.

RELIGIOUS COMPOSITION OF CHRISTIAN PASTORS WHO RECEIVED ONE TIME HONORARIUM FROM GOVT. OF AP

(Sample size 347)

CHRISTIAN39.19%
HINDU-SC42.94%
ST1.44%
HINDU-OBC9.51%
HINDU-OC4.32%
NA2.59%
TOAL100%

The present G.O. has laid out 3 eligibility criteria that have to be fulfilled by the applicants to be considered under the scheme.

(a)  Church should be registered under the Societies Act;

(b)  Land should be registered in the name of Church;

(c) The institution should not have any other source of income.

This is in addition to the existing conditions of the Christian religious worker holding a Christian community certificate and being a qualified Christian religious worker. However, the additional eligibility criteria have not gone down well with the Christian religious worker community. In videos and social media posts, they have been pointing out that most of the churches are not registered as societies and they have been functioning from premises owned/taken on rent by the religious worker on an individual basis. In some cases, the churches are functioning from structures raised on public land.  Christian community elders expressed the opinion that not more than 1,000 Christian religious workers will meet the criteria and thus eligible to receive a monthly honorarium. Well established churches, popularly known as mainline churches pay monthly salaries, have regular postings/transfers and promotions. Religious workers from such churches will be out of the purview of the present scheme.

Thus it will be interesting to see whether the present scheme, as outlined above, will stand judicial scrutiny if and when challenged in a court of law. Also, it will be keenly observed whether the government will heed the concerns raised by the Christian community and relax existing eligibility criteria.

Source:

https://www.organiser.org/Encyc/2020/9/10/Andhra-Pradesh-70-percent-Christian-pastors-who-received-govt-honorarium-hold-SC-OBC-caste-certificates.html

What is happening in Israel?

Abhishek Ranga

The Historical walled city of Jerusalem is in again in a midst of a raging crisis.  To understand the present scenario that is fast unfolding and snowballing into a major conflict between Israel and Palestine,  we need to understand the geography of the city. The city of Jerusalem is predominantly divided into 4 different blocks- Jewish block, Muslim block which houses the Masjid Al-Aqsa as referred to by Muslims and as Temple Mount as referred to by the Jews. This predominantly Arab neighbourhood was ‘annexed’ by Israel during the 6 day war or as Israel puts it- was rightfully united with the rest of Jerusalem that has for ages been the epicentre of Jewish Civilisation. The remaining two quarters are the Christian and the Armenian quarters.

Since the ‘annexation’ of East Jerusalem (The Muslim Neighbourhood) by Israel there have been long standing ownership cases that have time and again sparked of violent clashes led by Palestinians who are fully backed by the Hamas- The designated Terror group that operates out of the contested Ġaza Strip.

A land ownership case pertaining to the predominantly Arabic neighbourhood  of Sheik Jarrah of which the judgment was due on May 10th once again led to clashes between the Israeli police and the Palestinians. The Palestinians argue that the ruling could well mean several Palestinian families evicted from their homes. The ruling in the wake of the violent protests have been deferred  according to a latest statement  by the Israel’s Justice Ministry.

The Al-Aqsa Connection

The Masjid Al- Aqsa or Haram esh Sharif (The Noble sanctuary) is the third most holiest site according to Islam. Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammed ‘ascended’ to heaven from here. Though it is officially under the Israeli Govt. – the Jurisdiction of the Masjid is under the Jordanian Waqf. It is also the Holiest site for Jews who are allowed to visit it but prayers by Jews and other Non-Muslims is prohibited inside the complex.

The 35 acre complex has been a hotbed of several clashes in the past and with possible eviction in the Ownership case pertaining to the neighbourhood of Sheik Jarrah tensions have been simmering for a while which reached a crescendo during last week. Israeli police which secures and mans the entire complex anticipating large scale violence had restricted access to the area after clashes broke out in the neighbourhood.

Rampant Stone throwing and rioting was reported From Al Aqsa compound on Friday as mark of ‘protest’ against the forced evictions from Sheik Jarrah With heavy stone pelting the riot police forced their way to disperse the crowd using sten grenades and rubber bullets. When situation spiralled out of hand the police broke into the Al Aqsa mosque which angered the Muslim ‘Ummah’ around the world that have accused the Israel of defiling a holy place in the month of Ramadan.

However, Israelis and independent researchers observed that since a very long time Al-Aqsa was used as a ‘cover’ whenever such law and order issues arose and ‘defiling’ of place was beyond question.

Things took a drastic turn for the worse when Hamas fired over 200 rockets from the Gaza strip into Central and Southern Israel predominantly directed towards Tel Aviv, these attacks have led to the death of 5 citizens and an Indian living in Israel. Dramatic scenes of Israelis running into bomb shelters have emerged on the Social Media. The Iron dome intercepted many missiles that have been fired by Ġaza. The Israeli defence forces have since them launched the ‘ Operation Guardian of Walls’ which is the biggest Air Strikes since 2014. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reported that the Israeli Missiles have taken down several important hideouts of top Hamas leadership and pounded the building that was supposed to be the HQ of Hamas for Military research and Intelligence.

PM Netanyahu was quoted saying – ‘..this campaign will take time. With determination, unity and strength we will restore security to the citizens of Israel.’

With unremitting fire from Hamas and a determined fightback by Israel, the world watches the sudden military escalation in the Middle East after the much touted Abraham Accords.

Pope denies St. Thomas evangelised South India – Ishwar Sharan

Pope Benedict XVI’s statement on September 27, 2006 during a public audience, that the apostle St. Thomas only reached as far as North-West India—today’s Pakistan—was factually correct and reflected the statements of the Early Church Fathers and the geography of the Acts of Thomas. That the Pope’s minders changed his statement the next day on the Vatican website, to include South India in Thomas’s travels, is no surprise to us. Telling lies for Jesus and his Vicar in Rome are also very much part of Catholic Church tradition and history. – Ishwar Sharan

On 27 September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI made a speech in St. Peter’s Square at Vatican City in which he recalled an ancient St. Thomas tradition. He said that “Thomas first evangelised Syria and Persia and then penetrated as far as western India, from where Christianity also reached South India”.[1] This statement greatly upset the Indian bishops in Kerala, and as it was perceived to be a direct violation of the beliefs of many Indian Christians, it was brought to the attention of the Pope’s editors and amended the next day on the Vatican’s website to read that St. Thomas himself had reached South India. G. Ananthakrishnan’s article “Thomas’s visit under doubt” in the Times of India, 26 December 2006, reads:

His reluctance to believe what fellow disciples said about Jesus Christ’s resurrection earned him the name Doubting Thomas. Centuries later, St Thomas—believed to be the man who brought Christianity to India—finds himself in the shadow of ‘doubt’ with none other than the Pope contradicting his evangelical trek in the country, only to modify it a few days later. But far from dousing the fire, the Pope has rekindled a debate and given critics an issue on the platter.

Pope Benedict XVI made the statement at the Vatican on September 27, 2006. Addressing the faithful during the Wednesday catechises, he recalled that St. Thomas first evangelised Syria and Persia, and went on to western India from where Christianity reached Southern India. The import of the statement was that St. Thomas never travelled to south India, but rather evangelised the western front, mostly comprising today’s Pakistan.

Knowingly or unknowingly, he had in one stroke challenged the basis of Christianity in India and demolished long-held views of the Church here that St Thomas landed in Kerala, where he spread the gospel among Hindus. The comments were especially a letdown for the Syrian Christians of Kerala, who proudly trace their ancestry to upper-caste Hindus said to have been evangelized by St Thomas upon his arrival in 52 AD.

The comments went unnoticed until Sathya-Deepam, the official mouthpiece of the Syro-Malabar church, picked it up. Writing in it, George Nedungat, a member of the Oriental Pontifical Institute of Rome, conveyed the community’s anguish and claimed that previous popes had recognised St. Thomas’s work in south India.

The Pope’s original statement given out at St. Peter’s, before it was amended on the Vatican website, was factually correct and reflected the geography of the Acts of Thomas, i.e. Syria, Parthia (Persia/Iran) and Gandhara (Afghanistan, North-West Pakistan). There is no historical evidence to support the tradition that St. Thomas came to South India, and on 13 November 1952 Vatican officials sent a message to Kerala Christians stating that the landing of St. Thomas at Muziris (Cranganore now Kodungallur) on 21 November 52 AD was “unverified”. When this writer sought confirmation of the 1952 Vatican statement in 1996, the Vatican’s reply was disingenuous and non-committal. The Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints said that he needed more information and that the life of St. Thomas was the object of historical research and not within his congregation’s competence.[2]

Earlier, in 1729, the Bishop of Madras-Mylapore had doubted whether the tomb in San Thome Cathedral was that of St. Thomas and wrote to the Sacred Congregation of Rites in Rome for clarification. Rome’s reply was never published and we may assume it was a negative reply. Again, in 1871 the Roman Catholic authorities at Madras were “strong in disparagement of the special sanctity of the localities [viz. San Thome, Little Mount, and Big Mount identified by the Portuguese after 1517] and the whole story connecting St. Thomas with Mailapur.” However, in 1886 Pope Leo XIII stated in an apostolic letter that St. Thomas “travelled to Ethiopia, Persia, Hyrcania and finally to the Peninsula beyond the Indus”, and in 1923 Pope Pius XI quoted Pope Leo’s letter and identified St. Thomas with “India”. These papal statements also reflect the geography of the Acts of Thomas, as does Pope Benedict’s statement, and make no reference to South India. In fact, the India they refer to is now Pakistan.

Pope John Paul II visited India twice in 1986 and 1999 and prayed at the alleged tomb of St. Thomas in San Thome Cathedral, but, like St. Francis Xavier before him, he had nothing to say about St. Thomas’s visit to South India or Mylapore in the first century. This is a curious omission on the Pope’s part in that he was an ardent missionary who openly promoted the evangelising of India and Asia, and a statement from him confirming a visit by St. Thomas to South India would have certainly supported his agenda and that of his Indian bishops.

1. As quoted in Deccan Chronicle, Chennai, of 23 November 2006, under the title “Pope angers Christians in Kerala”.

2. Our letter to the Prefect, Sacred Congregation of Rites, Vatican City, dated 26 August 1996, read: “I am doing research on St. Thomas in India and have learned that your office issued a letter on November 13, 1952 which stated that the landing of St. Thomas at Cranganore in 53 AD is unverified. I would like to know if in fact the said letter was issued and, if that is not the case, whether you can confirm that St. Thomas was martyred and buried in Madras. I would be most grateful if you could direct me to any authentic evidence supporting the story of St. Thomas in India.” The reply from the Prefect, Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Rome, dated 11 September 1996, read: “This Congregation for the Causes of Saints has received your letter of 26th August last in which you have asked for information regarding Saint Thomas’ presence in India. We have not found in our Archives the letter supposedly written by this Congregation on 13th November 1952, of which you speak, because of a lack of more precise data (Diocese, destination, etc.). Nor do we have other data regarding Saint Thomas since this Archive was begun in 1588. His life is the object of the research of historians which is not the particular competence of this Congregation.” This reply was a brush off. The Prefect knew what we were asking for and could have located the 1952 Vatican letter in a few minutes if he wished to.

Courtes: www.ishwarsharan.com

For more details read this book…

Muslim Candidate Gets Fake BC-E caste reservation certificate for Elections

The Musheerabad police of Hyderabad have booked a case in Crime No. 377/2020 under Sections 420, 466, 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code, following a complaint lodged by Musheerabad Tahsildar K Janaki, who said Inayat Khan was issued a BC-E certificate from Musheerabad.

Also, the case has been booked on the issuers and the people involved in the fake reservation certificate that was issued to Inayat Fatima. She is the sister in law of Congress leader Feroz Khan who was arrested for assaulting scribe.

The candidate Inayat Fathima Khan who was contesting from Vijaya Nagar Colony ward in the Hyderabad civic polls was issued a fraudulent OBC Certificate /  BC-E certificate from the Musheerabad mandal and on verification, no application made by her was found in the office.

The candidate resides in Nampally and she took the fake reservation certificate from the Musheerabad MRO and it resulted in the case bust.

At the MeeSeva office from where the application was made, the file was locked using a password denying access to the application document. During preliminary enquiry, it was also noticed that the Aadhar card details were false and facts were misrepresented, the Tahsildar said, demanding action against the guilty after investigation. Further investigation is going on.