Unprovoked, Unwarranted Papal Assault on India

'The Christian God is cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust.'  – President Thomas Jefferson

'Missionaries are perfect nuisances and leave every place worse than they found it'.  – Charles Dickens.

Pope Benedict XVI hails from the land of Hitler and Nazidom. He is now living in a country which produced another great man of compassion like Benito Mussolini. It is not therefore surprising that he has warned the government and the people of India on the question of enactment of laws against conversion by duly constituted authorities under the law in India. By virtue of the fact that a woman from the country where Vatican is located happens to be temporarily in a position of supreme and unchallenged strength and power in India today like that of Queen Elizabeth I, Pope Benedict XVI seems to have derived the ballast power to come out with the following statement: 'the disturbing signs of religious intolerance which have troubled some regions in the nation (India), including the reprehensible attempt to legislate clearly discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental right of religious freedom, must be firmly rejected'.

Henry VIII in order to marry the woman of his choice called Anne Boleyn divorced his catholic wife Catherine of Aragon from Spain. He took this extraordinary decision after he had failed to persuade the Pope to give his consent to marry Anne Boleyn. Not only did he marry Anne Boleyn, but also broke away from the Church in Rome because he could not put up with the tyrannical authoritarianism of the Pope and his blatant interference in what Henry VIII considered a personal matter. Thus was born the 'Anglican Church' in England. This was almost a few years later than Martin Luther declared his independence from the authority of the Pope in Germany in 1519.

Pope Benedict XVI seems to be under the mistaken impression that he is living in 16th century Europe, if not England. He seems to think that he can control the duly elected President of India, even as the Pope in the 16th century tried to control Henry VIII with catastrophic consequences for the Catholic papacy and ludicrous consequences for the Church in England.

I am very amused by what Pope Benedict XVI has described as 'religious intolerance' in India. The record of Christianity in India in the field of tolerance and compassion is well-known. I would like to give a few 'snap shots' from certain moments in the history of Hindu-Christian encounters in India.

Coming to facts of history, the first encounter between Hinduism and Christianity took place not in India, but in those parts of West Asia, North Africa and Southern Europe which comprised the Roman Empire at the dawn of the Christian era.

There is evidence, archeological as well as literary, that Hinduism had made its presence felt in Graeco-Roman Religions and philosophies long before Jesus was born. It was widely believed in the ancient Western world that the Greeks had learnt their wisdom from the Brahmanas of India. Evidence of Hindu colonies in some leading cities of the Roman Empire is also available. Hindu temples had come up wherever Hindu merchants and traders had established their colonies. Christianity did not fail to notice this Hindu presence as soon as it became a force in the Roman Empire. We find Saint Hippolytus attacking the Brahmanas as a source of heresy as early as the first quarter of the 3rd century.

Right from the very early days of Christianity, Hindu Temples were viewed by the Christian Priests as the most vibrant and visible symbols of what they called 'Brahmana Religion'. They became targets of Christian attack like all other Pagan temples. To quote Dr. R C Majumdar, the eminent historian: 'According to the Syrian writer Zenob, there was an Indian colony in the Canton of Taron on the upper Euphrates, to the west of Lake Van, as early as the 2nd century B.C. The Indians had built two temples containing images of Gods about 18 to 22 feet high. When about A.D. 304, St. Gregory came to destroy these images, he was strongly opposed by the Hindus. But he defeated them and smashed the images, thus anticipating the iconoclastic zeal of Mahmud of Gazini'.

Historians of the Roman Empire have documented the large scale destruction of thousands of Pagan temples by Christianity from the 4th century onwards. According to Majumdar it cannot be ruled out that many of these temples were places of Hindu worship. The word 'Pagan' is a comprehensive term in Christian parlance and covers a large variety of religious and cultural expressions which are non-Christian in character.

The next important encounter between Hinduism and Christianity commenced with the coming of Christian missionaries to Malabar after Vasco da Gama found his way to Calicut in A.D. 1498. It took a serious turn in A.D. 1542 when Francis Xavier, started his inquisition in India. The proceedings have been preserved by the Christian participants. They make the most painful reading in the history of Christianity in India. Francis Xavier had come with the firm resolve of 'uprooting Paganism' from the soil of India and planting Christianity in its place. His sayings and doings have been documented in many biographies and cited by every historian of the Portuguese period in the history of India.

Francis Xavier came to the conclusion that Hindus are an 'unholy race and they are liars and cheats to the very backbone. The Indians being black themselves, consider their own color the best. They believe that their gods are black. On this account the great majority of their idols are as black as black can be, and moreover are generally so rubbed over with oil as to smell detestably, and seem to be as dirty as they are ugly and horrible to look at.' So much for Francis Xavier's civilized and humane tolerance of the Hindus. He wrote to Rome to install inquisition in Goa immediately and it all started in an organized way in 1560 and continued till 1812.

In 1560 Viceroy's building in Goa was modified to become the 'palace of inquisition' with 200 cells with residence of the first inquisitor, house of secret, house of doctrine, any number of cells, and other special ones: of secret, of penitence; of perpetual confinement; of the tortures etc. Those officially responsible for inquisition were endowed with powers higher than those of Viceroys. I would like to present below a summarized calendar of events under the umbrella of Inquisition from 1560 to 1812.

April 2 1560: 
Viceroy D Constantine de Braganca ordered that all Brahmins should be thrown out of Goa and other areas under Portuguese control.

February 7 1575: 
Governor Antonio Morez Barreto, issued orders that the properties of those Hindus whose 'presence was prejudicial to Christianity' should be confiscated.

The Third Concilio Provincial adopted a resolution asking the king of Portugal to banish from Goa 'the Brahmins, physicians and other infidels' whom the Church finds as an obstacle to convert the 'the heathens' to the 'only true faith'.

January 31, 1620: 
Portuguese government ordered that '...no Hindu, of whatever nationality or status he may be, can or shall perform marriages in this city of Goa, nor in the islands or adjacent territories of His Majesty...'

Governor Francisco Barreto, issued orders to 'bar Hindus from seeking employment' in the Portuguese held Indian territory and Portuguese officials were ordered not to 'use the services of any infidel in matters of his office anyway'. To quote from the pages of Joao Felix Pereira (19th century) in Historia de Portugal, '..This Portuguese inquisition, this tribunal of fire, thrown on the surface of the globe for the scourge of humanity, this horrible institution, which will eternally cover with shame its authors, fixed its brutal domicile in the fertile plains of the Hindustan. On seeing the monster everyone fled and disappeared, Moguls, Arabs, Persians, Armenians, and Jews. The Indians even, more tolerant and pacific, were astounded to see the God of Christianism more cruel than that of Mohammed, deserted the territory of the Portuguese...'

Hitler and his compassionate men, cleverly connived at, if not guided by the Pope, in Rome from 1940 to 1945, exterminated the Jews in Europe in a cold-blooded manner. But perhaps Hitler got his seminal ideas from the Portuguese pirates who were responsible for the Holy Inquisition against the Hindus in Goa from 1560 to 1812. Portuguese Judges Magalhães and Lousada in Vol 2 of their Annaes Marítimos e Coloniais have given a graphic account of Portuguese Catholic cruelty, bestiality, brutality, inhumanity and savagery: '...The terrors inflicted on pregnant women made them abort....Neither the beauty or decorousness of the flower of youth, nor the old age, so worthy of compassion in a woman, exempted the weaker sex from the brutal ferocity of the supposed defenders of the religion? There were days when seven or eight were submitted to torture. These scenes were reserved for the inquisitors after dinner. It was a post-prandial entertainment?.'

The Goan inquisition is regarded by all contemporary portrayals as the most violent inquisition ever executed by the Portuguese Catholic Church. It lasted from 1560 to 1812 though in Europe it ended by 1774. Historian Alfredo De Mello has described the Directors of Goan Inquisition as 'nefarious, fiendish, lustful, corrupt religious orders which pounced on Goa for the purpose of destroying paganism and introducing the true religion of Christ'.

This story presented by me of the Roman Church's record of organized cruelty in India during the last 2000 years, is not an end; not even the beginning of the end, but only the end of the beginning.    

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More by :  V. Sundaram

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