Tuesday 31 January 2012

Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem

The day we left for Haifa, 19 January, we paid a visit to the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem. The Museum is based in the Citadel at Jaffa Gate. We had to pay a fee of 30 shekels per head, and 20 shekels for those with a student ID (which unfortunately not all our students had carried). But it was well worth it. The Citadel was built, not by David (whose City of David falls quite outside now of the present Old City Walls) but by Herod the Great. It seems Herod's Citadel had 3 magnificent towers, of which only part of one exists - part, because the Romans destroyed half of it. According to Vernet, the original tower was 45 metres high.

The Citadel itself reflects the Herodian - Second Temple Period, the Roman and Byzantine periods, the early Islamic, Crusader and Ayyubid periods, and the Mamluk and Ottoman periods. The museum of course portrays the Canaanite period, the First Temple Period, and the Return to Zion period before, and the British Mandate period after.

And Ratisbonne finds a place in the Museum - in the late Ottoman period, if I remember right. We felt a small thrill that we formed part of the long history of this ancient and tortured city.  

Thursday 12 January 2012

A stunning day

A stunning day today: clear, fresh, and COLD. Samih, our factotum, says it snowed a bit last night. There certainly was frost on our cars this morning. I was glad I had gone well coated and covered to the Latin Patriarchate co-cathedral this morning for the Eucharist with the Holy Land Coordination Committee. The co-cathedral tends to be cold. No heating possible in that large neo-whatever structure.

They had a very interesting christmas crib though - quite modern, in white, offwhite and gold. And - Christmas is not yet over there - perhaps out of respect for the Orthodox and others who will celebrate this week.

Wednesday 11 January 2012


These pics were taken in 2008 in a little village called Dorney, not far from Eton and Windsor... The track that is visible was made by some crazy motorist perhaps under influence... 

Saturday 7 January 2012

Lonergan and Kierkegaard

I am working on a paper on Lonergan's notion of authenticity, for the Puthenpurackal Festschrift, and am reading, once again, the pages of Insight on genuineness. I find them strangely moving. No, that is not the word. Not strangely, because I was moved, and even excited, by many parts of the book when I first read it. But reading now the references to genuineness, especially the lesser known ones in ch. 18 on Ethics, I find myself moved, touched, and I even find myself lingering over, tasting, savouring Lonergan's writing.

In section 3.3, The possible functions of satire and humour, he is drawing from Kierkegaard. That he had read Kierkegaard enough to be able to incorporate him thus is already significant. He mentions Kierkegaard's distinction between the aesthetic, the ethical and the religious. He compares the aesthetic and the ethical to counterpositions and positions: they stand to the whole man, the existential subject, as counterpositions and positions stand to the cognitional subject. He goes on to say that, on the counterpositions, the good is identified with objects of desire, while on the positions, objects of desire are lumped along with objects of aversion as instances of the potential good.

Then: he notes that it would be a mistake to identify the ethical sphere with the acceptance of the positions, and the aesthetic with acceptance of the counterpositions.
For the spheres are existential, but the positions and counterpositions are defined sharply. One might claim that Marxism satisfies the definition of the counterpositions, for Marxism is a philosophy. One could not claim that Marx satisfied the same definition, for Marx was not a theory but a man. (3:648)
Very salutary to keep in mind in the functional specialty, dialectic. P and cp regard precisely the opinions, statements, judgments of someone; not that person herself.

The fact of the matter would seem to be that men commonly live in some blend or mixture of the artistic, dramatic, and practical patterns of experience, that they tend to the positions in enouncing their principles and to the counterpositions in living their lives, and that they reveal little inclination to a rigidly consistent adherence to the claims either of pure reason or of pure animality. (3:648)


Shema, Israel...

Here in the midst of Israel I cannot help remembering again the story I read so long ago, of the young Jew standing in the ruins of the ghetto in Warsaw, after the Nazis had destroyed it and carried away most of the inhabitants. The despair and the pain as he asks God why he has allowed such a thing to happen. And then the heart-rending cry, the ringing proclamation of faith: But even if you do not love us, I will say, I will shout: I will love you, the Lord my God, with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my strength.
“Something very surprising happens today in the world: this is the time at which the Almighty turns his Face away from those who cry to him... As soon as I have emptied the last bottle of kerosene on my clothes, I will put this letter into an empty bottle and hide it among the stones. If later someone finds it, he can perhaps understand the sentiments of a Jew, of one of those millions of Jews who have died: a Jew abandoned by the God in whom he believed so intensely... I will love you forever, even if you don’t want it. And these are my last words, my God of anger: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God the Lord is One.”  
Pier Francesco Fumagalli, “Fratelli maggiori, ‘maestri di fede’: La ‘Lettera a un amico ebreo’ di Svidercoschi, Avvenire (domenica 11 aprile 1993) 13.

The story has something to do with John Paul II. Svidercoschi was one of John Paul II's friends. 

Prof. George Menachery on John Paul II

I found this very moving:

ELECTING A NEW POPE — The Vatican October 1978

Prof. George Menachery had read and written much about PAPAL ELECTIONS. When he went to Rome as a free lancer for the October 1978 election where the conclave of Cardinals chose the present Pontiff His Holiness Pope John Paul II, he had merely wanted to experience at first hand the joy and excitement of a papal election as described in classics he had read many times over such as Morris West’s ‘SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN’, Irving Stone’s ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’, and Henry Morton Robinson’s ‘The Cardinal’. But his Roman holidays turned into a memorable adventure. Read about it here.

The Cardinals were arriving one by one for the ‘Mass for the Election of the Pope’. They entered the cobbled courtyard behind St.Peter’s Basilica in huge cars and walked towards the special back-door of the Basilica quite close to the main altar.After the Mass they would enter the Conclave (‘with key’) and proceed to elect behind locked doors the next spiritual leader of the crores-strong Catholic community of the world and the temporal head of the State of Vatican.

I was the only Indian among the 1300 press reporters from all over the world in Rome that October accredited by Archbishop Pancharoli’s Vatican Press Office.Of these 300 belonged to the English-speaking group. The Italian group was 320-strong, the French were 200 odd, and the Spanish/Portuguese 140. In addition there were more than 300 TV crewmembers. Apart from two or three selected TV teams only fourteen of the 1300 reporters who had arrived to report the papal elections were permitted to enter the Basilica for the function to report and to take exclusive photographs.
Vatican accreditation given to George Menachery by the Vatican Press Office

These were selected by lot during the briefing sessions and I was extremely lucky to get one of those fourteen coveted cards. Some well-known magazines and papers from the United States and France were willing to pay huge amounts for this card. In fact some of the fourteen photographers present now at the Basilica door represented the most famous magazines and newspapers of the world, having procured the cards from the original lucky winners paying quite hefty sums.

One of the very first to arrive to attend that crucial function before the all-important Conclave locked its doors against the outside world was Lawrence Cardinal Picachy of Calcutta. As he got down from the huge car on to the vast brick-paved yard and proceeded towards the Basilica my Minolta flashed twice or thrice. One or two other pressmen also photographed the Cardinal from India, I noticed with pleasure.

It was with a huge coterie of admirers and followers that Cardinal Siri arrived. So also Cardinal Benelli. Both were front-runners in the first ballots in the previous election and one of these two was expected to come out of the Conclave as the new Pope. Hence the photographers vied with each other in taking their pictures. I also took one each. But I was now mainly waiting for the arrival of Cardinal Parecattil of Ernakulam, ‘my Cardinal’. Then came Cardinal Rossi of Propaganda in the company of Archbishop Lourdusamy (now a Cardinal). They talked serious business for a while before the Cardinal entered the Basilica and Lourdusamy went back. I didn’t forget to snap the duo.

But now the sound of music from inside the Basilica was growing louder and louder. Like the Wedding-guest in Coleridge’s ‘Ancient Mariner’ I had to still reluctantly tarry waiting for my Cardinal to arrive. There was still no sign of his car. Most of my fellow photographers were preparing to enter the church to cover the Mass and the decisive guide-line speech to the Cardinals. It was then that I noticed a solitary figure in red approaching from the huge gateway. This Cardinal looked lonely, tired, and crestfallen, yet somehow upholding the dignity of a prince of the Church. He alone among all the Cardinals arrived on foot, walking hurriedly towards the Basilica. No camera aimed to take his picture coming as he was without benefit of admirers and supporters. One or two of the big-time photgraphers from the US were looking at this pitiable figure almost it seemed contemptously. “There are lots of unused frames in my Minolta. I need only a few more to cover Cardinal Parecattil. So why not snap him, whom nobody appears to care for?”, I thought. And so I took a photo of this lonely man. He raised his head in some surprise, and went in silently. Soon afterwards Cardinal Parecattil came from the gianicolo hospital where he was staying, smiled at me, and went in, the very last Cardinal to enter the Basilica.

With thousands I stood in the Piazza San Petro between the colossal columns of Bernini near his fountain and the huge obelisk in the Vatican looking at the thin pipe raising its head to the left of Michaelangelo’s mammoth dome from the famous fresco-adorned Sistine Chapel to see whether it would spit white smoke this time, fifty-six long hours and seven ballots after the Cardinals had been locked up inside to elect one, most probably from among themselves, as the new successor of St. Peter. Two days back I had the rarest of privileges to study the arrangements in the conclave area as the goddess of fortune had given me one of the sixty cards distributed by lot among the 1300 journalists to inspect the secrets of the Conclave . I was especially attracted to the pepper containers on the table of each cardinal who will be attending the Conclave. I told fellow journalists how two millennia back 100s of 1000s of gold coins minted by Caesar Augustus who forced pregnant Mary to travel all the way to Bethlehem, Tiberius Caesar the master of Pontius Pilate, and the ‘fiddling’ Nero had found their way into distant Kerala in exchange for Kerala’s pepper and pearls and how Alaric the Goth had asked for 3000 pounds of Indian pepper. as ransom to free the Senate Fathers of Rome. From the stoves arranged to burn straw and chemicals to produce the white and black smoke I put some coal pieces into my coat pocket as mementos of this historic visit to the Conclave area.

Now, standing in the St. Peter’s square or piazza I looked at the balcony of the Basilica to test my newly bought binoculars. Some days back I had gone up to the roof of the basilica to examine the marvels of its architecture. As a student and teacher of art and architecture this exercise has always given me immense pleasure. On this occasion however I had another motive also. I had always wanted to touch the thin white pipe that would inform the world the election or non-election of a Pope. So with the intention of touching the pipe I approached it. But many wooden barricades had been erected to prevent just such an attempt. While I proceeded towards the pipe disregarding the barricades I could see from the corner of my eye a policeman coming towards me to prevent my proceeding further. Pretending not to see the arm of the law coming nearer and nearer and now shouting something very loud, I walked quickly to the pipe and touched it. Turning around I saw the furious policeman who immediately caught hold of my arms. I innocently asked him in Malayalam what the matter was. He shouted again. I repeated my question in Malayalam again. Then in broken – very broken – English I told him I could not understand what he was saying. In despair he brought me out beyond the mobile barricades and pushed me in the direction of the staircase and shouted something like GOOOO! That was a week ago

Now I was standing in the square or piazza looking at the balcony of the Basilica and the Sistine roof. Suddenly the tip of the pipe began to spit white smoke. The crowd began a deafening non-stop shout “Bianca! Bianca!” It’s white, it’s white. “We Have a New Pope! We Have a New Pope!” Tens of thousands were soon concentrating their attention on the balcony where the new Pope’s name would be announced and where the Pope himself would eventually appear. But within twenty-four minutes of the election of the Pope Osservatore Romano the official organ of the Vatican came out at 6.43 p.m. carrying a half-page picture of the new Pope. I bought a copy from the boy selling the paper like hot cakes among the crowd to see who had been finally elected. To my surprise I saw the lonely hero of my photograph keenly looking at me from the front page. He was the new Pope. But I didn’t know until then the name or country of Karol Joseph Woyitila. Even when Cardinal Felici announced the name in sonorous Latin very few in the crowd could recognize it. Once again the Italian adage was proved true: “He who goes into the Conclave Pope comes out Cardinal” – and the last and very least became the first, a Polaco, a non-Italian in 400 years, that too from the underground of a communist country – from the fourth world, so to say – as had happened to Anthony Quinn as Kiril Cardinal Lakota in the Holywood version of The Shoes of the Fisherman.

The huge lamps of the Vatican Palace and the Propaganda College started to flood the St. Peter’s Square, together with the huge Roman moon lighting up the whole area and converting night into day. By this time the crowd had swelled to some two hundred thousand souls filling the whole square and the Via De La Conciliazione up to river Tiber. It was another half an hour before the Pope appeared on the balcony to give his blessing Urbi et Orbi – to the City and to the World. Before giving that Latin blessing he talked to the people in simple Italian – to their great delight and to the displeasure of the Curia officials. ‘Viva il Papa’ Long Live the Pope, the crowd shouted again and again. ‘ Polonnia! Polonnia!’ Poland, Poland. Bearing witness to the birth of a new era the bells in the four hundred churches of Rome began to ring, led by the eleven ton Kanchenone of the St. Peter’s Basilica.

Morning. When I came to see Cardinal Parecattil once again at the hospital Gianicolo where he used to stay when in Rome I showed him the pictures I had taken. Of himself, Lourdsamy, Picachy and the new Pope as they were arriving at the courtyard entrance of the basilica. He couldn’t believe that I had taken a picture of the Pope before the election, because nobody thought he would be elected.

It was in a way my visit to Cardinal Parecattil at Ernakulam to bid him bon voyage that was the occasion for my deciding to go to Rome. Bishop Sebastian Mankuzhikkary who knew the Cardinal’s affection for me jokingly said to me then, ‘Are you not going with the Cardinal to Rome?’ I replied, ‘ I will go if he takes me with him.’ Of course the picture of many cardinals during previous elections taking an assistant with them came to my mind – that was not possible now after Pope Paul the Sixth had forbidden the custom in his directions for the papal election. After the departure of the Cardinal to the airport on his way to Rome for the election I brooded over the possibility of going to Rome for the election. I had read up so much on the election for many, many years that my desire to be in Rome during an election had become something of an obsession with me. This was my last chance, I thought.

Fortunately for me the largest circulated daily of Kerala and India agreed to part finance my expenses and what is more to publish my reports from the Vatican – if in fact they reached India in time – chances for which were quite nonexistent in those days. When I told Bishop Kundukulam of Trichur and others the same day about my desire they all encouraged me very much in this matter. And so I arrived in Rome just two days after the Cardinal’s arrival, which itself was a miracle – what with visa regulations, reservation hitches and what not. He was very glad to see me there. I was able to meet him there often and learn about the discussions among the Cardinals about the forthcoming election. Cardinal Picachy and Archbishop Lourdusamy also talked to me often. It all helped me to send relevant reports to India.

After meeting every Cardinal individually and after meeting the heads and representatives of the various countries who had arrived to congratulate the new Pope His Holiness gave an audience to the Press on the eve of the “Coronation”, to which not only the 1300 journalists with Vatican’s accreditation but many more were invited. While waiting at the bottom of the Great Staircase leading to the hall in the Vatican Palace where the audience was to take place somebody who appeared to know me told me from behind to proceed. I didn’t know why I should try to go before the others. Any way I tried. But the two Swiss Guards stopped me with their extended spears. Picp& +caption Dejected, I climbed down the steps. Then somebody from the Oriental Congregation appeared from behind the Swiss Guards from near the audience hall and beckoned me. Though the guards protested at first finally they allowed me to go up, also possibly because they were amused at my timidity. When I entered the hall many seats were already taken by officials and so on. The bearded official from the Congregation was leading me in when a Rev. Sr. took me under her charge and led me to the benches. She sat at the aisle end of one bench. When I tried to take the seat by her side she asked me to take the seat behind her. At that time I took it as an insult. (My 1972 experiences of segregationist attitude in the New York Sub-Way were only too strong in my mind.) But she only smiled. She was the official on Radio Vatican who was in charge of all the Polish programmes, and as such was very familiar with the new Pope as he used to give many talks to his people in communist Poland over Radio Vatican. She was a close friend and room-mate or something of the Rev. Sister in charge of the Indian programmes and hence had seen me often at the Radio Station. That was why she took me under her charge. When the Pope finally came into the hall and was proceeding to the rostrum he looked in our direction, and seeing the Polish nun came towards us. He came and stood in front of us and began to talk to the Rev. Sr. Although the well-built ecclesiastic who was the Pope’s body guard tried to prevent it I shook hands with the Pontiff. The Sr. whispered to me, “Say something to the Pope, you may never get such a chance in your whole life.” I gathered all my courage, and in spite of the tough body guard’s piercing looks, asked the Pope:” Your predecessor Pope Paul the Sixth did not come to Kerala when he came to India, though there is an Apostolic Church there. Will Your Holiness visit Kerala?” I completed the question somehow. I do not know whether the Holy Father heard or understood me fully. But he replied in perfect English, “Why Not?” That was quite enough for me, and for the body-guard too I suppose because he whisked the Pope away towards the rostrum with all his might.

After that the next day’s Mass for the Commencement of the Ministry and “Coronation” – the term is no more used and the three tiered crown is no more seen – was not such a great treat though it was pleasant to watch the whole function on the steps of the Basilica’s facade from the vantage point of the balconies over the Bernini columns in the company of great journalists from the world over.

Why was Cardinal Woitila so late that day on which the Conclave began? Why was he so tired-looking? These questions troubled my mind often in the next several years whenever I looked at the rare Photo that I had published in some papers and at the Vatican accreditation card and all those other rare and wonderful press cards I was lucky to draw.

Then I went to Rome once again in 1985. I had an appointment with the chief of the Vatican Museums. I had persuaded him to allow me to take the photographs of the hundred odd statues of almost all the popular Hindu Gods and Goddesses that the ethnological museum possessed for my Indology volume (i.e. of the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India). Such an exhaustive collection I hadn’t seen in India even. But when I arrived in the museum for the final sanction the director was absent. However he had made arrangements for me to meet his assistant Msgr. Pankowiski, who was from Poland. To curry favor with him I told him that I had organised much of the Malankara Golden Jubilee Exhibition at Kottayam in 1980 that was inaugurated by the Polish Cardinal Rubin, and a large picture of the Polish Cardinal had been displayed by us in the exhibition hall which is today the home of the St. Ephraem Ecumenical Research Institute. Then I told him jokingly that I was the only journalist who knew a Polaco would be elected to the Holy See, and I told him the story of the late-coming Cardinal Woitiva and my taking his photo. The asst. director jumped up from his seat and told me the following interesting story breathlessly gesticulating and standing all the time.

“Do you know why he was late that day?” I said I did not know. Then he said: “ You know he is a great devotee of the blessed Virgin Mary, like most of us Poles.”

That was quite true. Most Poles gift you pictures of our lady of Chestochowa, as the Rev. Sr. from radio Vatican had done when we met during the Papal audience for journalists.” Almost the whole weekend before the commencement of the Conclave ( the Msgr. continued) the cardinal was away at the Mountain Shrine of Mary at Mentorella, praying for the Church to get a Good Shepherd at the election. On the morning of the Conclave after the prayers he stood talking to a Polish monk there for a few minutes. So when he came to the valley climbing down two miles the only bus to Rome had already gone. Rome was far away and he had to reach Rome before the doors of the Conclave were locked. Then he got a bus but it broke down some thirty miles away from Rome. (Cardinal Woitiva travelled only by bus, and always wore only tattered old black clothes.) There was no other bus. As directed by a sympathetic villager he approached the driver of an unused bus who was on holiday and told him his plight. The driver felt pity for the Cardinal and took him to the Vatican, the Msgr. concluded. Now I understood why he was late that morning and also why he looked so tired and depressed. Only then did I understand the reason why the Pope soon after his election flew to Mentorella in a helicopter (not in a bus this time!) to venerate the little wooden statue of Mary there.

That journey was the prologue to the new Pope’s many journeys to destinations beyond the Vatican and Rome, even to the ends of the world.


Theroux's Mediterranean

Reading a travel book this time, Paul Theroux, The Pillars of Hercules: a journey along the coast of the Mediterranean, from Gibraltar (one of the pillars) to Ceuta on the other side (the other pillar), but by way of the coast. We have reached Corsica, place I have always longed to see. I remember seeing the headland from the northern trip of Sardinia... dark, green, mysterious, and just across the water. But, as Theroux says, a continent apart. One of the places, according to the natives, that Ulysses landed on in his long wandering, the place where he met the Lystragonians or some such people, giants anyway. Fascinating. What is even more fascinating is the writers and the books that Theroux talks about as he wanders the coast. He is wandering in off-season, February; the towns and resorts are bare, often dead, shorn of the summer crop of tourists. Very different. No need of booking. But also sombre, dreary, wet, cold, windy. Not the Mediterranean of dreams. Not the Mediterranean that I remember from Mediterraneo - wonderful movie. Wish I could find a copy.

Just learned from the net that Theroux used to be a friend of another great travel writer: V.S. Naipaul. In a sense, both are similar: the caustic remarks and observations, for example. It seems they had a falling out.

Besides, Theroux was brought up Catholic. His mother was Italian, his father French-Canadian. He seems to have had a falling out also with his Catholicism: very sharp comments on Catholicism in the Pillars.

But what I absolutely love is his familiarity with other travel literature, and, in general, with books that speak about the places he is travelling through. It makes me want to read all those. One of them being Evelyn Waugh (Labels): again, very caustic at times. My impression is that Brideshead Revisited is quite different from the other, almost flippant, novels that were included in the omnibus edition we had in Divyadaan. Perhaps Brideshead was from his post-conversion period.... Haunting in its beauty, and especially in the way it explores the slow and almost invisible working of grace.

Thursday 5 January 2012

H.O. Mascarenhas on pre-Portuguese Christianity in Goa

I am taking the liberty to record here the following very interesting interview by H.O. Mascarenhas on pre-Portuguese Christianity in Goa, from http://thenazrani.org/feasts9.htm:

Let us now reproduce the interview of Rev Dr Hubert O Mascarenhas Ph.D; DD with the Editor of New Leader (of the Archdiocese of Bombay) which appeared in the Silver Jubilee Souvenir of the Archdiocese of Tellicherry, 1970 :-

Editor: Father, You are a scholar on Hinduism and apostolic Christianity as it is related to St. Thomas. Could you explain for our readers how you got interested in St. Thomas ?

Fr. Mascarenhas:  If I were to speak of a systematic interest in St. Thomas, I must say, it properly started with my doctoral research on “Incarnation in Indian tradition”.  I have to discover from what sources the people of India got their Mystical Doctrine of Incarnation, apart from the general primitive revelation.  The first thing for me was to find out whether there was any pre-Christian contact at all between ancient India and the rest of the world, especially with the people of Israel.  Everyone knows that the wise men came from the East.  “Where is he who is born king of the Jews ?  They asked.  Why should these merchant-princes be interested in the JEWS and their king if there was no direct and trust-worthy pre-Christian contact ?  The coming of St Thomas to India, I consider was only the natural result of many centuries of commercial and cultural contact between the tribes of Israel (popularly called Beni-Israel) and the people in India.

Editor:  You mentioned your systematic interest in St. Thomas.  Does it mean that you were interested in the subject many years ago, even much before you started your research work ?

Fr. Mascarenhas:  That exactly is the point.  I was actually initiated into the subject by my grandmother who was from Aldona, in Goa.  She never missed an opportunity to talk about St Thomas, who was the patron of her village.  St Francis Xavier meant everything to me, but very little to her.  She was interested in the very Apostle of Christ our Saint and St Francis Xavier too !  There was no difference in earlier times, she used to tell me as a child between those whom we call “Christians” today and the other people of Goa; there existed no odious discrimination in the villages between “Christians” and “Konkanis”.  Her own family was known as “Noronha”, which was the Portuguese version of Narayana, i.e. “People of the Lord !”.  That went into my head like a nail.  It has brought me to the tomb of St Thomas at Mylapore, finally.  One of the many “apocryphal” stories I heard from my grandmother was the popular one about the stone-carved, equal-arm CROSS near our house on the hill WITHOUT ANY IMAGE on it which the local villagers used to hide away when the Portuguese soldiers came looking for “heretics”.  I used to ask: Why did we hide that Cross ? And she used to tell me: these equal-arm crosses were sacred to the Nazarenes; but the Portuguese used to look upon them as Nestorian symbols.  She told me that the many Nazareth surnames in Nasrana Vall (today: Nachnola, near Aldona) were named after our Lord Jesus of Nazareth.  This was a deeper nail for my little head.  The Portuguese or the Latin Cross with its longer vertical bar was considered in our churches and chapels as the only orthodox symbol. This set me thinking and won dering.  I later discovered that no equal arm cross was to be found inside any church inGoa.  The only place in which you will find them tolerated are on hills and road-sides, and it would be more amusing for you to know that very many of them have been put up by the Hindus of Goa, especially after the Portuguese republic was declared in 1910.  In the churches they could not survive, because of the all-embracing Lusitanization ( Lusitania means Portugal in Latin) and wholesale Latinisation, since 1510, for four hundred years !

As a young man and later as a theological field-worker, I also noticed that the Hindus of Goa celebrated around July 3rd as “Dhukrana” what they consider to be the biggest religious festival of the year, though it was always raining heaviest in June-July, in goa. Now, to any impartial student of these findings, Dhukarana sounds like a distant echo of the Syriac Dhukrana, which means the remembrance of the feast of the martyrdom of St. Thomas.  Fortunately now, it is recognized by the universal church that July 3rd is the proper date of the martyrdom of St. Thomas.  These people who celebrate the feast and they are regarded as staunch Goan “Hindus” are called Thomse’s which means followers of St Thomas.

There is even a colony, close to Kalyanapuram near Mangalore, of these Thomse’s both Hindu and Christian.  They are the people who probably fled from Goa during the early Portuguese centuries (XVI XVII).  At Kalyanapuram, there are Christian Thomse’s and Hindu Thomse’s.  Of these, the Hindu Thomse’s are regular in going every year on pilgrimage to the Kalyanapuram (at present called Kalapura) in Goa, for their yearly festival.  “Kalapura”, you know, means storehouse in Malayalam, or depot for spices (that is Kalapuram in Konkani).  Everybody knows also another place called Panola in Goa and Panduripur on the Deccan plateau, both famous for the cult of Vittala (vidu-Alu becomes Vittalu in Kannada as well as in Tamil and means Lord of the house, something parallel to Bethel).  The Hindu Thomse’s make a pilgrimage around July 3rd according to the full moon of the Lunar Calendar, not only to Kalyanapura (Kalapura) and Panola in Goa, but a vast number of them now go to Maharashtra, to Panduripur also.  It would seem that this pilgrimage, outside Goagained strength for two reasons: to escape the ravage of fanatics and to keep out of the reach of the Portuguese inquisitors (1560 – 1910).

Editor: When you say that even the non-Christians in Goa are or should I say where called Thomse’s and that even the one big feast they celebrate during the year is that of St Thomas’ martyrdom on the full moon around July 3rd, what do you mean to indicate ?

Fr Mascarenhas:  It is not a question of their being once upon a time called Thomse. Among the non-Christians in Goa and Mangalore even today, there are groups which go by the name thomse.  What I do mean is that these people who are known as Thomse inspite of their being considered in the census as non-Christians could not have been anything else but Apostolic followers of Jesus of Nazareth, namely Eastern Nazarenes, that is people who are the descendants of those who accepted Christianity from St Thomas himself, in a word “Thomas Christians”.

Editor: Then what about the generally accepted fact or theory please correct me if I am wrong that Christianity in Goa traces its origin to St Francis Xavier ?  Do you mean to say that even in Goa Christianity goes back to St Thomas ?  If so, how can you substantiate such a statement with historic proofs ?

Fr Mascarenhas:  Very good !  I am glad you have asked me that question.  You put the burden of proof on me and so you will have to give me a very patient hearing.  I am going to give you proofs from the horse’s own mouth from St Francis Xavier himself. In fact we must be grateful to the Society of Jesus for making these proofs popularly available (since 1953).  What I am referring to is the critical edition of the letters of St Francis Xav ier by Fr Felix Zubillaga, S.J., published for the fourth centenary fo the death of St Francis (1952).  In it there are three letters of the saing (numbered, document 15, 16, 17) which are very relevant to your question.  These three letters were written by St Francis from Goa and addressed according to the editor, first to his confreres in Rome and the other two to St Ignatius, the Founder.  All the three are dated Sept 20, 1542.  They were probably written during the rainy season (June, July, august, September) in Goa and dispatched on Sept. 20, when there happened to be the first sailing ship leaving for Lisbon.  It is also good to remember that St Francis arrived in Goa on May 6th, 1542.  He wrote as an eyewitness and his evidence is unimpeachable.

Let me also refer to document 14, which is his earliest writing in Goa.  In it there is a statement of Christian doctrine in the “I confess” and he puts Sts. Peter, Paul and Thomas of the same footing, which should at once remind you of the “I confess” still recited by st Thomas Christians of Kerala as well as generally by the East Indian, Goan and Mangalore Christians of the Konkan.  Now I translate St Francis’ outstanding impressions of Goan Christianity for you from the Spanish I the critical edition P. 91 #5:  “It is four months and more since we arrived in India, at Goa, which is a city totally of Christians a sight to be seen!

Before I comment, let me also quote from the other letter of the same date which he wrote to St Ignatius:  “The first thing that I beg for in the service of Our Lord Jesus Christ is, on the ground, that the people of this land are greatly devoted to the glorious Apostle St Thomas, who is the patron of the whole of this India; for the increase of the devotion of all these devotees that His Holiness the Pope should grant a plenary indulgence, on the feast day of St Thomas and its octaves, to all those who confess and communicate on that feast day and its octaves, and that for those who do not confess and communicate they should not gain the plenary indulgence”.

St Francis could not leave Goa by sea or land till the monsoon storms had stopped. For him, “Goa” was indeed India !  How could he urgently and unequivocally describe all these devotees of St Thomas, if it was he who had baptizsed them all and remember he speaks of the city being “totally of Christians” and remember how could they all be devoted to St Thomas, if they were not already St Thomas Christians in the most literal sense ?  This kind of devotion to St Thomas existed and exists nowhere in Spain orPortugal or in any part of the world, except in India.

A second point is regarding the date of the martyrdom of St Thomas, which according to the Chaldean Syrians is July 3rd and according to the Latins, until recently, was Dec 21.  While pleading for a plenary indulgence from the Pope, for the feast of St Thomas, St Francis speaks like a man who has already seen the extraordinary devotion of the people manifested during the preceeding novenas and later octaves of the feast of St Thomas in Goa.  If the feast were always celebrated in Goa and elsewhere in India on dec. 21, as it was claimed till recently, St Francis could not have seen or participated in such an impressive feast, before writing to St Ignatius, because his letter was dated Sept. 20.  But if the feast was celebrated on July 3rd, which the Goan Chaldeans and later Syrians (Eastern Christians) always claimed as the actual date of the martyrdom, St Francis must have personally witnessed that feast because he had arrived in Goa on May 6, and wrote his letters on Sept. 20, that is after personally witnessing the events of July 3rd in Goa, he later attested the people’s extraordinary devotion to St Thomas.

Again St Francis is known to have baptized Goans on an average of 10,000 a month. Let us say he baptized about 25 days a month to give him some rest.  It works upto about 400 baptism a day. Consider also the long rite of baptism he had to go through at that time.  Moreover, was he only baptizing and not instructing ?  How could he instruct so many in so short a time ? Or was it only a question of rebaptising the Christians of St Thomas (See Cardinal Tisserant’s Eastern Christianity in India p. 175) ?  In that case we can understand there was no absolute need of instructing and preparing them. Both internal evidence from his letters and other reasons given above force one to conclude that the 10,000 baptisms a month attributed to St Francis were not an instance of mass conversion or miraculous Christianisation but only of mass Lusitanisation, under the aegis of the Portuguese Empire.

We would be closer to the truth if we said that St Francis himself was a victim of the process of the Lusitanisaiton and empire building and that is why he left Goa and came to the tomb of St Thomas at Mylapore to resolve his scruples and to get inspiration from St Thomas himself, if not to make reparation for what the Portuguese had done with St Thomas Christians.  We know too well that St Francis spent four months at the tomb here, at Mylapore the Vicar General at the time being Gaspar Coelho, who has left vivid reminiscences for posterity to read.  The spiritual agony must have been unbearable.

In conclusion, one is led to think that today’s so called non-Christians of Goa are those who refused to give up the Chaldaic (East Syriac) Rite with its Kurbana (Mass) and their Eastern traditions of Christianity symbolized by the Qurbana itself and the equal arm CROSS; and if today especially we, the East Indians, Goans, and Mangalorians are called Latin Christians, it is all due to the westernizing process which was started and carried to the extreme by the Portuguese and the empire builders who followed, perhaps with the best and noblest of intentions, but with disastrous results for the propagation of the faith throughout Asia and Africa.

SDBs and FMAs at Cremisan

The popular Israeli newspaper Ha'Aretz carries today a piece on the SDBs and FMAs of Cremisan, in the context of the Wall that is coming up and that will likely split the two communities. See  http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/new-segment-of-west-bank-security-fence-may-separate-nuns-from-monks-1.405542. However, the piece is quite contentious in the sense that it distorts, selects, and in short mauls the truth.

Cremisan, 7th January 2012
Press Release
Full Agreement between Salesian Sisters and Salesians of Don Bosco in Cremisan serving the population since 1891 with social works and international formation activities
With reference to the article entitled ‘The Separation Wall will pass between Monks and Nuns’, which appeared [in Hebrew] on the Ha-Aretz newspaper on 31.12.2011 and on its website [and printed in English] on 05.01.2012 under the title ‘New segment of West Bank security fence may separate nuns from monks’, the Salesian Sisters and the Salesian Male Religious of Cremisan clearly affirm that there is no discord among them whatsoever and that their positions with regard to the building of the ‘wall’ do not differ.
The two religious communities are autonomous in organizing their own activities in favour of the local population but have always had and still enjoy excellent relations and mutual respect.
They have always expressed their opposition to the building of the ‘Wall’ and, in ways deemed most appropriate, have also shown solidarity with the Palestinian families of Beit Jala who, because of the construction of the ‘Wall’ suffer injustice and are deprived of land which is their property.
At Cremisan the Sisters manage a kindergarten, a primary school and a youth centre for the integral formation of children and young people, all of them welcomed without any distinction and with particular attention given to those more in need.
The Salesians are present in Cremisan since 1891. Originally a formation house and Centre of Theological Studies for young members of the Society from various parts of the world (over 20 nations), restructuring plans are now underway, especially since the Theological Centre moved to the Ratisbonne Monastery in Jerusalem, in order to promote an International Centre of Ongoing Formation for young people and adults of the entire Salesian Family (present in 132 nations) and at the service of local institutions that are interested.
The wine production has always been at the forefront for in technique and quality and has also recently received international recognition. It provides work for about twenty families of the area and goes to sustain the educative and formative activities of the Salesians in the Holy Land.
Mother Superior Father Superior

It might be useful to keep in mind the recent communication by the Salesian Provincial, Fr Maurizio Spreafico: 

Bethlehem, 27th December 2011

The Wall near Cremisan – Official Declaration

The position of the Salesian Middle East Province with regard to the Wall is the one contained in the Press Release of 30th August 2007 signed by Father Giovanni Laconi, provincial vicar. That communiqué was published in Arabic on the Al Quds daily paper on 4th September 2007. This position was confirmed in the recent clarification of 23rd November 2011 by Father Maurizio Spreafico, provincial, and was published on the website of the Latin Patriarchate on 30th November 2011 and updated today, 27th December 2011.

1) The Salesians of Cremisan have never asked to ‘pass on the Israeli side’.

2) The entire route of the Wall, including the section that directly affects the Cremisan property, was established independently by the Israeli authorities, despite the well-known guidelines issued by the International Court of Justice on 9th July 2004. The Salesian community of Cremisan, a victim of a decision imposed by the Israeli authorities, expressed its opposition to the unilateral separation policy and reiterated its complete extraneousness in the planning of the route of the Wall in a Press Release of 30th August 2007, signed by the former Salesian Provincial Vicar Rev. Father Giovanni Laconi, released in four languages and approved by the Latin Patriarch and the Apostolic Nuncio.

3) When the Israeli Governor, in a 25th September 2009 meeting in Kfar Etzion, tried to put pressure to obtain an explicit consent from the Salesians to ‘become part of Israel’, our response was expressed in the following terms:
a) The construction of the Wall is an imposition by Israel that contradicts international law. Therefore we do not intend to address the issue of the Wall, because we do not recognize its legitimacy
b) We do not have any responsibility in Israel’s decisions concerning the Wall, because they are decisions of a political-military nature: it is not up to the Salesians to get involved in such issues and to determine boundaries between the two States.

4) Recently, the construction of the Wall has gone on for a long stretch on the edge of our property uphill, destroying a considerable portion of our land. 

5) We Salesians continue to express our full solidarity with the Palestinian families of Beit Jala who, because of the construction of the ‘Wall’, suffer injustice and are deprived of land which is their property. For this reason we support their legal action and we ourselves reserve our right to take legal action in order to defend our property, which has never been defined in previous agreements between the two states.

Fr. Maurizio Spreafico

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