Let us pray, peace be with us:

"The Cross that has been the cause of our good and by which our mortal humanity was set free,
O Lord, be for us a strong fortress. And by this Cross, we shall overcome the wicked one and All his devices."

(Syro-Malabar Qurbana)

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“The Truth will make you free” 

----------------------------------------------------------------Vol. 18, No. 4                   New Delhi                          July, 2008




The gift of  Christ’s love reached India in twenty years of His death.  The reality of His redemption has, ever since, inspired and guided the small community of early Christians of India.  Remaining rooted in the positive aspects of the indigenous culture, they have constantly tried to live by the original apostolic faith.


“ You may be surprised to learn that Christianity came to India long before it went to England or Western Europe, and when even in Rome it was a despised and proscribed sect.  Within 100 years or so of the death of Jesus, Christian missionaries came to South India by sea.  They were received courteously and permitted to preach their new faith.  They converted a large number of people, and their descendants have lived there, with varying fortunes to this day.  Most of them belong to old Christian sects which have ceased to exist in Europe”.  (Glimpses of World History – 1949 by Jawaharlal Nehru).


“Christianity has flourished in India from the beginning of the Christian era.  The Syrian Christians of Malabar believe that their form of Christianity is Apostolic, derived directly from the Apostle Thomas.  They contend that their version of the Christian faith is distinctive and independent of the forms established by St Peter and St Paul in the West.  What is obvious is that there have been Christians in the West Coast of India from very early times.  They were treated with great respect by the Hindus, whose princes built for them Churches” (East and West in Religion – 1958 by Dr S. Radhakrishnan).


These are the views of two pre-eminent statesmen of India, our former Prime Minister and former Vice-President.  Their written words cannot but arrest attention and carry the full weight that their scholarship demands.  Unfortunately, few Indians outside Kerala, now know the history and origin of the Thomas Christians or Marthoma Nazranis of India, or the significance of the term “Thomas Christians” or “Syriac Christians” by which appellations the old Christians are called.


When dealing with Christianity in early Indian history, it is necessary, if we are to capture the right perspective, to dispel certain notions commonly held by those who do not belong to Kerala, or who perhaps, are not so fully acquainted with its history.  The first of these notions, is the generally accepted, though mistaken belief, that Christianity in India is an importation from the west.  This is understandable, because in the long and chequered history of our country, parts of it came under the domination of the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and finally, the whole of it under the British.  The religion of each of these successive foreign powers being Christianity, and proselytizing and conversions being a concomitant of foreign domination, we have been led to identify Christianity in India as an exotic western product.  Though this view has gained credence and prevails, history and tradition belies it and sustain the belief, that Christianity was brought to India by Marthoma Sliha, one of the disciples of Iso’ – Msiha, at the very dawn of the Christian era.


Appearing to the eleven disciples, gathered in Galilee, the Risen Lord said: Go out to the whole world, proclaim the gospel to all creations (Mark 16:15).  Marthoma Sliha, for his part, took the eastern route, past the Roman Empire, traveling by land, river and sea, across the continent of Asia.  He preached the Gospel in west and central Asia (the Parthian empire of that time), in the Indo-Parthian Kingdom in the north west of India, beyond the coasts of peninsular India and in China, before returning to Mylapore, near Chennai  to die a martyr, in the year 72 of our Lord.  It will be seen, therefore, that when Marthoma Sliha came to India he came not with the prestige of a mighty Christian power, but as a humble disciple from Palestine, carrying the message of his Master, from one eastern land to another.  This essential fact should not be forgotten, as it forms the central feature of this subject.


Thomas Christians of Asia:


Among all the Churches founded by Marthoma Sliha in the course of his epic journey, the Church of the East in the then Persian Empire, spread despite periodic persecution, to be the largest Church outside the Roman empire, with an extensive missionary wing.   By the seventh century it suffered a split consequent to the Christological controversies.   The assault of the Mongols (1263) and by Timur (1394) led to a steady decline of the Church. 


After establishing a missionary base in Edessa (now in Turkey), Marthoma Sliha, with the help of disciples like Mar Addai, Mar Haggai and Mar Mari, evangelized Persia, Mesopotamia, Media, Assyria, Parthia, Kurdistan, Babylonia and other parts of west and central Asia.  By the end of the second century, these Churches were on a firm footing (given the non-interference of the Parthian emperors).


Not much is known about the Church in China founded by Mar Thoma Sliha except that Persian records of the 7th century mention the Metropolitan of China (as well as the Metropolitan of India).  The presence of Persian missionaries around 635 is seen from the Sin-gnam-fu monument in Shensi province of Middle China.


Christian communities linked to the Church of the East are known to have existed in the north and west of India until the Islamic-Portuguese conquests.  Significantly, the Archaeological Museum in Taxila ( Pakistan) records the visit of Marthoma Sliha to the town in AD 40.  It was the capital of the Parthian King, Goundophoros, as well as the ancient Buddhist learning centre, Takshashila, of Ashoka’s time.


The time honoured tradition so dearly cherished by the Marthoma Nazranis of Kerala is, that Marthoma Sliha landed at Malankara near Cranganur in 52 AD., founded seven churches and established Christian communities in Kerala.   The seven Churches he founded were at Malankara itself near Cranganur, at Palayur near Chavakad, at Kooakayal near Parur, at Kokkamangalam or South Pallipuram, at Quilon, at Niranam near Tiruvella and at Nellakkal near Chayal.  After his labours in Kerala, he journeyed across the southern peninsula to the Coramandel, or east coast, and was martyred in 72 AD and was buried at Mylapore near Chennai.  This is the substance of the age old and hallowed tradition. 


Compared to the other Churches founded by Marthoma Sliha, the one that he established in Malankara  in AD 52 has had exceptional continuity, escaping the fate of persecution or annihilation which the other churches faced through their life.   The worst that the Church of India of the Marthoma Nazranis suffered, and that too in recent centuries, was the repeated depletion, on the exertions of rather aggressive Western colonial  missionaries.


Was it possible for Marthoma Sliha to find an easy passage from Palestine to India ?  On this point there is little doubt.  The connection between South India and the rest of the world can be traced to long before the Christian era.  The Phoenicians, the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans, in turn carried on active commerce with the East.  The fact of Phoenician intercourse with India is based on indubitable philological evidence.   We are told in the Old Testament that King Solomon’s ships (BC 1000) traded under his Phoenician seamen. “And they came to Ophir and fetched from thence gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to King Solomon” ( 1 Kings 9:28). We are also told in the same book that “once in three years came the navy of Tarshish bringing gold and silver, ivory and apes and peacocks” (1 Kings 10:22).  Ivory in Hebrew is called  Shenhabbim i.e. the teeth of elephants, hab being the Hebrew equivalent for habh Sanskrit for elephant.  Apes and peacocks are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in their Indian names, ape in Hebrew is Kop and in Sanskrit and Malayalam Kapi.  The ordinary name for peacock in Malabar is Mayil (Sanskrit – Mayura), but the ancient Tamil and Malayalam word is Tokei (the bird with the splendid tail).  In the Hebrew Bible, the word Thuki occurs which is a Hebrew variant of Tokei (Prof Max Muller’s “Lectures on the Science of Languages” – Sixth Edition). .  But we have a more permanent record of Phoenician influence in South India in the Vatteluttu alphabhet which is the most ancient Tamil and almost the present Malayalam characters.  Where was Ophir ?  In the Septuagint, or Greek version of the Bible made in Alexandria, the translators render Ophir as Sopheir, Souphir, Sophara.   There is a very ancient site on the west coast of India, thirty-six miles north of Bombay and three miles north of Bassein called by the name of Nalla Sopara on the suburban section of the Western Railway.  This has been identified by Scholars with “Ophir”.  Sopara was formerly the capital of the kingdom of Aparanta, stretching from Navsari, north of Bombay to Gokarnam the sacred northern city of Kerala.  Sopara in the ancient days (B.C. 1000) was a great port, but the sea has receded some distance as it has done all along the west coast of India.


In the Greek words Oryza and Zingiber, philologists have found irrefutable evidence to prove the Greek connection in trade with Kerala.  Oryza is but another form of the Tamil word Arisi, or the Malayalam word Ari, denoting rice deprived of its husk, which is exactly the state in which it was exported.  The Greek word Zingiber  (ginger) is considered by noted philologists to have a distinctly Malayalam origin, for according to them it is derived from the Malayalam word for ginger (Inchi).  Precise information of the geography of the Indian coast and marts can be found in the Periplus Maris Erithrae a guide book for mariners published by an anonymous author about 60 A.D.


It is also deserving of special mention, that shortly before the period attributed by tradition to the arrival of Marthoma Sliha, Hippalos a Greek mariner about 47 A.D. discovered the regularity of the monsoons in which for half the year, the winds blew steadily over the Indian Ocean from the West, and for the other half as steadily from the East.  So Hippalos on one voyage discarded the slow coasting route and boldly trusting himself to the south-west monsoon steered to India. Like success attended his return voyage when the north-east monsoon proved equally helpful.  This direct passage of the monsoons facilitated and shortened the voyage between the Red Sea Ports and India.  “To those bound for India” says Pliny “it is most convenient to depart form Okelis (southern tip of Arabia).  They sail thence with the wind Hippalos (named after the discoverer) in 40 days, to the first emporium of India, Muziris” (Pliny’s Natural History (Circa 50-60 A.D).  Orientalists of all shades of views identify Muziris with its Malayalam name Muyirikkodu and its Tamil form Muchiri, with the modern Cranganur or Kodungallur.  A Tamil poet describes Muchiri at the mouth of the Periyar river in these words: “The thriving town of Muchiri where the beautiful large ships of the Yavans (Greeks) bringing gold, come splashing the white foam on the waters of the Periyar which belongs to Cherala (Kerala) and return laden with pepper”.  The Greek geographers styled the river mouth “Pseudostomos”, which in Greek means false mouth, a correct translation of the Malayalam expression Alimukham, by which  name the mouth of the river Periyar is known even today.


The other significant fact, which throws further light on the sea passage to Cranganur, is the arrival of a large party of Jews, who dreading the wrath of the conquerors after the destruction of the second temple of Jerusalem in 69 A.D. fled to  India and established a colony at Cranganur where they lived for 1,000 years before moving to Cochin.  Though this was a few years later than the arrival of Marthoma Sliha, it bears testimony to the fact that the sea route from the Middle East to Cranganur was the one most widely used and commonly known in the first century of this era.   The importance of Cranganur, the ancient seaport of South India and the pivotal place in our history, is no more in doubt, but before we leave this starting point, it may be of interest to reproduce in some detail what the Scholar of Kerala history,  late Padmanabha Menon, has to say:


“Pliny described Cranganur as Primum emporium Indiac.  Well, did it deserve that proud distinction.   It was through this port that the Hindus  received from the Phoenicians their art of writing; it must have been from this port that the shipmen of Solomon of Israel, ‘that knew the sea’ obtained their valuable cargoes of gold, ivory, sandalwood, etc., it was to this port that the Greek merchant and mariner Hippalos, that Columbus of ancient times, in his voyage for the discovery of a sea route to India was carried by the western monsoons; it was here, according to common tradition, that Marthoma Sliha, landed first, planted the cross and preached Christianity in the opening year of the first century of the Christian era (52 A.D):  it was here, not long after, that the Jews arrived after the destruction of the second temple and the final desolation of Jerusalem (69 A.D.) and founded a colony; it was here that the early Chera Kings had their seat, and the Chera King Chenkudduvan held his prosperous court and ruled over the Chera Empire in the first century of the Christian era; it was here that the great Cheraman Perumal, Bhaskara Ravi Varma, lived and ruled over Kerla prosperously for thrice the period of his allotted term” (History of Kerla by K.P. Padmanabha Menon, Edited by T.D. Krishna Menon, Vol. I – 1924.).


One of the earliest written records which enable us to test the historicity of the Marthoma Nazranis is a work known as the “Acts of Thomas”.  It is an apocryphal work and is considered to have been written by one Bardesanesa, a Syrian and native of Edessa in Mesopotamia.  It is the earliest detailed account of Marthoma Sliha’s apostolic labours and mentions incidents and personages, which may shed some light on our history.  The Syriac manuscript of the Acts of Thomas, in its complete form, is preserved in the British Museum.  There are also other texts in Greek, Latin, Armenian and Ethiopic. But the consensus of opinion of competent authorities is that the Syriac text is the oldest one.  Dr W. Wright in 1871 published for the first time the complete Syriac text with an English translation in two volumes (Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles by Dr W. Wright, London 1871).  Dr. Wright’s text was discussed in detail in an article by W.R. Philipps in the “Indian Antiquary” (The Indian Antiquary, Vol. XXXII – 1903, Paper by W.R Philipps).  The words shown herein below in italics  are from Dr. Wright’s translation as given in that article.


The Acts are divided into nine parts, of which eight are called Acts and the last The Consummation of Judas Thomas.


The first Act is headed The first Act of Judas Thomas the Apostle, when He (i.e. apparently Iso’ Misiha) sold him to the merchant Habban that he may go down and convert India.  This part of the Act goes on to tell us that the Apostles, divided the countries of the world among themselves and that India fell to Marthoma Sliha who did not wish to go there.  At that time, a certain merchant, an Indian happened to come into the south country from….. (Unfortunately, the name is illegible in the Syriac manuscript).  In the two other manuscripts of the Syriac version, in the Sachau collection at berlin and the Cambridge University Library, this word is omitted.   The Latin and Greek texts also throw no light on this word.  However, in the Indian Antiquary referred to above, Mr Philipps says, that Mr F.C. Burkitt with whom he had apparently been in correspondence, supplied some further information and Mr Burkitt suspects that the lost word  is only the Syriac for “ Hindustan”.  This part of the Act then describes that in the company of Habban the merchant of King Gundaphar  Marthoma Sliha proceeded by sea and landed at the town of Sandaruk.  This place cannot be identified.


The Second Act begins with the words And when Judas (Thomas) had entered into the realm of India with the merchant Habban, Habban went to salute Gundaphar, the King of India.  In the preceding paragraph, attention was called to certain comments of Mr Burkitt regarding the name of the country to which the merchant Habban belonged.  Mr Burkitt held the view that the realm of India referred to in Dr Wright’s translation is literally Indian  City.


Acts three to six are not of importance and describe certain miraculous events and conversions in and about the city of king Gundaphar.  The sevent Act is of importance as it describes how  while Judas (Thoms) was preaching throught all India, he was called  by the General of  King Mazdai to heal his wife and daughter.  The Act proceeds to say that they went with a driver in a chariot drawn by cattle and the daughter of the king was brought in a palki.  We are  told that the king’s wife and daughter were converted by Thomas which angered the king and one of his servants dragged Thomas with his turban cloth and Thomas was thrown into prison.


The eight Act is the final section and is headed The consummation of Judas Thomas.  The Apostle is condemned to death by King Mazdai.  The martyrdom is described, which takes place outside the city and on the mountain where Thomas was speared to death by four soldiers.  Finally, we are told that the bones were secretly taken away by one of the brethren to the West.  This somewhat detailed recital of the Acts has been intentionally given to enable the reader to test the truth of the tradition.


In the middle of the last century, evidence from a large number of coins unearthed in the north-west of India became available which enable us to say that there was a king in India by that name.   On the obverse of the coin the king is depicted on horseback with a flowing whip in his hand.  The lettering is in Greek and assumes the name Gondaphares.

 On the reverse of the coin, Siva is delineated with a trident in his right hand and his left hand is extended over a symbol.  The legend is in Pali and reads Maharaja – rajarajasamahata – dramia – devavrata Gudaphrasa.


These coins are not all that remain to determine the authenticity and date of King Gundaphar’s reign.  However, when the ruins of a Budhist city were unearthed near Peshawar towards the end of last century, a stone tablet was discovered by Dr. Bellew which he presented to the Lahore Museum. This stone is known as the Takht-i-Bahi, it is 17 inches long and 14-1/2 inches broad.  It bears an inscription in six lines in ancient Gandhara which has been deciphered to read “In the twenty-sixth year of the great king Guduphara in the Samvat year three and one hundred, in the month of Vaisakh, on the fourth day”.  In the light of Archaeological  research it has been possible to fix the date of this inscription as 46 A.D.  The numismatic tokens on the Gondophares coins demand approximately a similar date, or a little later, which fits the possibility that Marthoma Sliha may have come in contact with this reigning king.  Bishop Medlycott who has instituted a critical study of the Acts, refers to many South Indian manners and customs in the narrative, such as taking of a bath before meals, the palki or palanquin, a cart drawn by cattle or oxen, the mention of the turban and the prostration before a religious leader as a sign of reverence.  After discussing all this at length, he concludes “It is impossible to resist the conclusion that the writer of the Acts must have had information based on contemporary history.  For at no later date could a forger or legendary writer have known the name.  It is impossible to suppose that a later writer, drawing on his imagination for facts, persons, localities, and incidents, could have brought about the coincidence of two personages, one of whom was unknown to living history, fitting the circumstances of place, person, duty and time, so aptly as occurs in this case.  On this ground we maintain there is every reason to conclude that Marthoma Sliha had entered King Gondophares’ dominions in the course of his apostolic career ( India and the Apostle Thomas by A.E. Medlycott (1905).


There is an ancient Syriac document entitled “The Doctrine of the Apostles” which is assigned to the middle of the second century.  The manuscript is in the British Museum from which Dr. Cureton took his text.  This work deals with the ancient usages, customs and belief of the Church. The following passage which has a bearing on the traditional knowledge of the apostolic labours of  Marthoma Sliha deserves special mention:


India and all its own countries, and those bordering on it, even to the farther sea, received the Apostles’ Hand of Priesthood from Judas Thomas, who was Guide and Ruler in the church which he built and ministered there. Ancient Syriac Documents edited by Dr Cureton, London – 1864).


This is yet another early document which bears unmistakable evidence of a Church in India established by Marthoma Sliha.


318 Bishops attended in the famous ecclesiastical assembly, the Council of Nicaea convened at the instance of the Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D. This Council was held to discuss sectarian differences and to draw up a code of general dogma and ritual.  It framed the Nicene Creed, used today in Christian Churches.  The Christian interests in India were represented by “Johannes Metropolitan of Persia and Great India” who signed the proceedings of this Council.   One writer is of the view that John came from India and that the epithet “Great” was used to magnify John’s office and as a compliment to him who represented a Church, which according to tradition was founded by Marthoma Sliha (The Syrian Church in India by George Milne Rae, 1892).


We may now refer to the written testimony of a number of Eastern writers of the first six centuries of the Christian era whose works mention the apostleship of Marthoma Sliha in Asia.  Here we merely mention the names of a few outstanding writers: St Gregory Nazianzeen (329 – 390), St. Gaudentius, Bishop of Brescia (402 – 427) and St Gregory of Tours Bishop (538 – 594).  Details of their writings as also of many other and extracts from translations of their works are given in great detail by W.R. Phillips (The Indian Antiquary, Vol XXXII, 1903).


We now turn to another important source, the full weight and importance of which cannot be overstated.  We refer to the Breviaries, the Sacramental books, the Liturgy, the Martyrologies and Ecclesiastical Calendars of the Syrian, Greek, Abyssinian and Latin Churches.  They form an integral part of the Church. Bishop Medlycott (India and the Apostle Thomas by A.E. Medlycott, 1905) has devoted a considerable portion of his book to reproductions of translations of this sacred literature of the Eastern and Latin or Roman Churches, all of which contain references to Marthoma Sliha and his mission in India.  How can hymns and prayers and church festivals of events concerning Marthoma Sliha, feature in sacred church literature unless it had the sanctity of truth ?  It may be of interest to quote just a few lines from the “madrashas” or hymns composed in 363 A.D. by Mar Aprem, the great Doctor of the East Syriac Church who lived in Edessa, now known as Urfa in Turkey:


Blessed art thou, like unto the solar ray from the great orb,

Thy grateful dawn India’s darkness doth dispel.

Thou the great lamp, one among the Twelve,

With oil from the cross replenished

India’s night flooded with light.


Oh Blessed apostle, valiant Mar Thoma

Whom violent threats did not affright.

Blessed Apostle be thou praised,

Whom the Great King had sent

That India to his one begotten thou shouldest espouse.


The book referred to is replete with similar translations from the Syriac Breviary and other sacred literature.  Let us reproduce one event from the “Eastern Syriac Kalendar”.


“July 3rdSt Thomas who was pierced with a lance in India (The Catholicos of the East and His People by A J Maclean, London, 1892).


Journeying down the centuries, we come to yet another important link in the chain of evidence available to us in the middle of the sixth century in the invaluable record of “Cosmas The Indian Voyager”, who was called Indicopluestes, because of his travels in India.   Cosmas was a rich and prosperous merchant of Alexandria, whose vessels traded with the lands surrounding the Indian ocean.   He sought knowledge more than wealth, and wherever he went he made enquiries about the manners, customs and life of the various races he encountered.  He was a geographer, a naturalist, and an explorer.  Growing weary of his active life, he retired from business and entered a monastery, where he occupied his time in filling twelve large volumes with an account of the many lands he had visited.  It is to this work “Topographia Indica Christiania” (Christian Topography), that we are indebted for the clearest glimpse of Christianity in India in that period.   This is his testimony regarding the things he actually saw during his voyage to India about 522 A.D


“We have found the Church not destroyed but very widely diffused, and the whole world filled with the doctrine of Christ, which is being day by day propagated, and the gospel preached over the whole earth.  This, as I have seen with my own eyes in many places, and have heard narrated by others, I, as a witness of the truth, relate. In the island of Taprobane ( Ceylon) in further India, where the Indian sea is, there is a church of Christians where clergy and faithful are to be found; whether also further beyond, I am not aware.  And such is also the case in the land called Male (Malabar) where the pepper grows.  And in the place called Kalliana (either Quilon or Kalyan) there is a Bishop usually ordained in Persia, as well as in the isle called the Isle of Dioscoris (Socotra) in the same Indian Sea….You find priests ordained in Persia sent there; there are also a number of Christians” (Translation for the akluyt Society, by J W HhhHakluyt Society by J W McCrindle, reproduced by J N Ogilvie in “The Apsotles of India” 1915).


Let us now consider some of the treasured relics in the possession of the Marthoma Nazranis of India.  The first of these are the Marthoma Sliba inscribed on stone slabs.  There are two in the Valliapalli Church, one on the altar on the left side, and the other on the altar on the right.  There is also one on the main altar of the Church on St Thomas Mount.  There are two more, one at Kadamattam and the other at Muttuchira, both places in Kerala.   Dr A.C. Burnell considers that the one on the left altar of the Kottayam Church and the other in the Church at St Thomas Mount are the oldest and belong to the sixth and seventh centuries.  According to him the inscription on these crosses which are in Pahlavi read:


“In punishment by the Cross was the suffering of this one He who is the true Christ and God above and guide ever pure” (Dr A.C. Burnell, Ph. D. “On some Pahlavi Inscriptions in South India”, The Indian Antiquary, Vol. III, 1874).


During the first few centuries after the death of Marthoma Sliha, the Christians enjoyed a long period of peace and quietude during which they increased in numbers.  New colonies were formed by periodical bands of immigrants right up to the eight century.  The Christians made a deep impression on the rulers of the land and secured their patronage.  They were numbered among the noble races of  India.  They were mostly engaged in trade, the foreign trade being almost exclusively in their hands.  They were allowed to wear golden tresses in their hair during marriage festivals.  They were permitted to have enclosures in front of their houses.  In front of their girdle they were accustomed formerly to carry a large knife having a long metal handle sometimes made of gold and beautifully worked.  They were always esteemed and patronized by their rulers, as much for their general fidelity and truth, as for their skill and military prowess.  But notwithstanding their warlike appearance, their disposition was peaceful.  When they entered the Church they deposited all their arms in the porch.  After divine liturgy, every man would take up his weapon again without the least confusion and walk quietly home.   The Nairs who were of the military class regarded them as brethren and loved them exceedingly.   They Syriac Christians were almost on a par with their sovereigns.  One other interesting point is the tradition cherished by the Syriac Christians that they possessed their own king at Villayarvattam near Udayamperur and at the death of the last king without issue, the kingdom lapsed to the Cochin Royal family (Anthropology of The Syrian Christians by Rao Bahadur L.K Anantha Krishna Ayyar, - 1926).


It is appropriate at this stage that some mention should be made of the term “Syrian Christians” by which appellation the Christians are known.  Aramaic was the language of Iso’ – Misiha and His Apostles.  Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic and became the sacred liturgical language of the Church.  They are called Syrian Christians not because they all claim to have Syrian blood in their veins, but mainly because they have a Syriac Liturgy.  The name is not an ethnological or geographical designation, but is purely ecclesiastical.  Their social customs, physiognomy, build, etc., indicate that they are essentially children of the soil like their Hindu brethren.  They are generally refereed to as Nazrani Mappilla.  The term “Mappilla” is a compound Malayalam word “Maha” (great) and “Pilla” (son), signifying “prince” or “royal” son.


The earliest European visitor to India was Marco Polo, the celebrated Venetian traveler, who visited the tomb of  Marthoma Sliha in Mylapore in 1259.  He had something of interest to say:


“In this province of Maabar is the body of the glorious martyr, Saint Thomas the Apostle, who there suffered martyrdom.  It rests in a small city (near Madras) not frequented by many merchants, because it is a place not very accessible.  A vast number both of Christians and Saracens resort thither.  The latter regard him as a great Saint, and name him Ananias, signifying a ‘Holy Man’ “


“The Christians who perform this pilgrimage collect earth from the spot where he was slain, which is of a red colour, and reverentially carry it away with them; of ten employing it afterwards in the performance of miracles, and giving it, when diluted with water, to the sick, by which many disorders are cured” (The Travels of Marco Polo, The Modern Library, new York, 1961).




The first official missionary to India sent by the Church of  Rome, was Friar Jordanus, who was appointed Bishop of Quilon and arrived India in 1330 with a papal letter of commendation to the Syriac Christians that they should seek to be reconciled with the Catholic Church.   Vasco da Gama made his first landing in Calicut in 1498, five years after his discovery of the route from Europe to India by the Cape of Good Hope, and St Francis Xavier arrived in 1542 in Goa. East and West were thus brought directly face to face. 


The status and position of the Marthoma Nazranees at this stage has been succinctly summed up by no other than the great historian Gibbon, who gives a realistic and graphic picture of the high social status they occupied.  This is what he says:


“When the Portuguese first opened the navigation of India, the Christians of St Thomas had been seated for ages on the coast of Malabar, and the difference of their character and colour attested the mixture of a foreign race.  In arms, in arts, and possibly in virtue, they excelled the natives of Hindostan; the husband-men cultivated the palm tree, the merchants were enriched by the pepper trade, the soldiers preceded the Nairs or nobles of Malabar, and their hereditary  privileges were respected by the gratitude or the fear of the King of Cochin and the Zamorin himself” (The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. II by Edward Gibbon, published by the Modern Library, New York, 1961).


In the beginning, the cordiality between the Portuguese and the Nazranis was extreme and the bond of Christian brotherhood  was acknowledged with joy and thanksgiving.  Dom Aleixo de Menezes was appointed Archbishop of Goa in 1595.  When the bishopric of Angamalee became vacant in 1597, Menezes decided to force conclusions and sent a letter patent agreeing to appoint the interim head of the Marthoma Nazranis, Archdeacon George as interim head on the condition that he signed a profession of the Roman faith.  This he refused to do nor would he countenance the authority of the Roman Church.  He said “I am sure that the Roman Church has no more to do with the apostolic Church of St Thomas, than that Apostle had to do with the Church of Rome”.  He summoned the Kathanars (priests) and representative laymen to a synod at Angamalee and with one voice they supported his stand that they would recognize no bishop, except one appointed by the Catholicose.  The Thomas Christians used to receive Bishops from the East Syriac Catholicate of Selucia.  The Catholicate of Selucia was shifted to Baghdad in the 7th century.  The title Catholicose was actually developed in the church of the East of the Thomas Christians.  Menezes was unperturbed.  He proceeded to Cochin in 1599 and met Archdeacon George who came down from the serra, or hills, surrounded by an armed guard of 3,000 Nazranis.  Apprehensive dread marked the Archdeacon’s actions.  The size of his bodyguard itself revealed his inner fear of the coming issues.  A conference was held which was long and arduous. It was marked by resolution on the part of Menezes and vacillation and timidity on the part of George and ended in his complete and abject surrender.  Ten articles were presented to him to be signed.  He hesitated, but bewildered and overcome, he signed the document without equivocation.  When his people heard of it they were enraged, but he assuaged their anger by stressing that it was merely a temporary expedient to preserve peace until the new bishop from Babylon arrived.  One of the ten articles to which Archdeacon George gave his acceptance was that he would issue letters throughout the diocese convening a Synod to discuss and settle matters of the faith and by another he agreed to accompany Archbishop Menezes, without an armed bodyguard, on a tour of the diocese.  During this tour, Menezes ordained a number of clergy and came into direct contact with both clergy and people.  The process of undermining the authority of Archdeacon George was commenced.  Menezes was thorough in his methods and carried the process of assimilation once begun, to its logical conclusion.  The circular issued by Archdeacon George convening the Synod is not available, but the one issued by Menezes has been preserved and a copy of it is given by Hough (History of Christianity in India by James Hough, 1839).  Reproduction of parts of it may be of interest to the readers.  The circular begins like this:


“Dom Frey Aleixo de Menezes, by the mercy of God, and the Holy Roman See, Archbishop, Metropolitan of Goa, Primate of the Indies, and the Oriental Parts, etc.  to the reverend in Christ, Father George, Archdeacon of the Christians of St Thomas in the Serra of the kingdom of Malabar, and to all other priests, curates, deacons, and subdeacons, and to all towns, villages and hamlets and to all Christian people of the said Bishopric, health in our Lord Jesus Christ”


The circular then proceeds to draw attention to the two briefs sent to the Archbishop by the Pope in 1595 and 1597.  The Archbishop sets out the failure of his attempts to enforce the mandates of taking possession of the Church and bishopric on the death of Mar Abraham and of preventing any bishop from Babylon from entering Kerala.  He announces that as his orders have been disregarded, he is left with no alternative but to convene this synod at which these issues may be settled.   The circular continues as follows:


“But perceiving that our mandate in that regard had no effect, what we had ordered not having been obeyed in the said diocese; and after having commended the matter to God and ordered the same to be done through the whole diocese, and after mature advice, by what methods the apostolic mandates might best be executed, and also being moved by the piety of the people and the mercy of God had shown them in having preserved so many thousand souls in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, from the time that the holy apostle St Thomas had preached to them until this day.  We do admonish, and in the name of God earnestly request, all the faithful Christians of this Bishopric, from this time forward until the end of the Synod, to exercise themselves with a pure and clean heart, in fasting, alms, prayers, and other works of piety, instantly beseeching God to enlighten the understandings of all that shall meet together, and so inflame our wills with Divine Love, that we may determine nothing but what is right, and may observe and comply with whatsoever shall be decreed; taking for our intercessor, our lady the most holy Virgin Mary, of whose praise and honour we are to treat particularly; as also the glorious Apostle St Thomas, the master, patron, and protector of this Church; and all the other saints in heaven, that so this Synod may begin; and proceed in peace and universal concord, and may end to the praise, honour, and glory of God our Lord for ever”.


The Synod of Diamper (Udayamperur) a few miles from Cochin, met on 20th June, 1599.  It was composed of 813 members, of whom 133 were Kathanars (priests), 20 were deacons and 660 laymen chosen by the members of each church.  Menezes came to the Synod armed with the terrors of the Inquisition, invested with the spiritual authority of the Pope and accompanied by the local civil and military representatives of the Portuguese, including Don Antonio the Governor of Cochin.  The Marthoma Nazranis quite naturally were overawed with this display of spiritual and temporal power.  Each decree was passed in sullen silence.  Menezes accepted minor alterations pertaining to local usage and custom, but was adamant against any alterations in church doctrine as set out in each decree.  The East Syriac doctrine was renounced, an oath was taken that they would never receive any bishop or prelate unless appointed by the Pope of Rome, the Jesuits were licensed to preach and administer the sacrament, and what was more important, the clergy were to submit themselves to the Holy Office of the Inquisition, which had been established in Goa in 1560, and thence for more than 250 years maintained its unbridled severety.


But by far the most cruel of all the proceedings was Decree XVI which reads as under:


“The Synod commands in virtue of holy obedience and under pain of excommunication, the priests and deacons and others whosoever of whatever dignity or rank in this Bishopric to hand over to the most Illustrious Metropolitan, in person or through deputies, all books whatsoever written in Syriac, within two months after the publication of this decree has come to their knowledge.  Under the same precept of obedience and excommunication it orders that no one in this Bishopric of whatever rank he may be, shall dare to copy any book in Syriac unless the prelate has given him permission in writing to do it, the book to copy which permission is granted being expressly mentioned”.


What history will not willingly forgive is the literary holocaust which was carried out on the authority of this decree, when all books that could be laid hold of were consigned to the flames.  It was comparable in many ways with the vandalism of Omar who by a similar wanton destruction ordered the noble library of Alexandria to be consumed by the flames.  After the Synod, Menezes hastened to the Rajah of Cochin to assure him that the Portuguese protection extended only to ecclesiastical affairs and did not trench in the least on the rights of the Rajah as the lawful monarch of his Christian subjects.  The subjugation of the Church of India to the Church of Rome was complete and it was forcibly and arbitrarily severed from its time honoured ties with the Patriarch of Babylon.


Thus, until the 16th century when the Portuguese, followed by the British, came to India with ambitions of religious as well as colonial expansion, there was only one undivided Church in India i.e. Hendo, the Church of India.  The early Church in India remained at peace, treasuring the same ethnic and cultural characteristics of the local community.  Its members enjoyed the goodwill of the other religious communities as well as the political support of the rulers.  The Syro-Malabar Church lost its identity with the meddling of the Latin Church.  The Holy See wants to restore her pristine purity of her identity by taking recourse to her pre-seventeenth century sources.  The liturgy is the core of any individual Church – her faith, her Doctrine, Canon Law and Liturgy.  Her whole life moves and has its life in it.  It is one of the sources of faith.  It is through her liturgy that she transmits to every generation all that she is and that she believes through her Doctrine, life and worship.  The Holy See wanted her to restore her authentic, genuine and original liturgy, the pre-seventeenth century liturgy, from 1934 onwards. In this laborious task she has not succeeded completely because of the ignorance and opposition of a group from within. Some of our Bishops and priests who had their priestly formation in Latin Seminaries could not imbibe their own Mother Church’s rich heritage.  They wanted to have a kind of Syro-Latin liturgy (it is neither Latin nor Oriental).


We must bear in mind certain essential characteristics of the Syro-Malabar church.   First of all the Syro-Malabar church is an individual Church.  She shares the Apostolic Christ experience of the Risen Lord.   It is an Apostolic church because her founder is Marthoma Sliha, the Apostle.  In short, she is an individual Church, i.e. the concretization of the Christ experience of Marthoma Sliha in the life-situation of a given people (the Nazranis).  Her Apostolic heritage is fully authentic and clearly expresses the unity and universality of the one Church of Christ. It is her duty to respect, preserve, develop and transmit it to the coming generations.  She expresses her unity through her faith in Christ and her diversity through her proper Apostolic heritage, expressed in her worship, in her spirituality, her theology, her Canon Law, etc.  The Apostolic Christ experience of Marthoma Sliha stands as a principal constituent of her individuality.


As the Church history reveals, that, only four autonomous Churches developed outside the boundaries of the Roman Empire.  They are the Churches of Edessa, Mesopotamia ( Iraq), Persia ( Iran) and of India.  All of them look to Marthoma Sliha as their direct or indirect Apostle.  The Church of Edessa held that she was founded by Mar addai, a direct disciple of Marthoma Sliha; while the Church in Mesopotamia venerate Mar Mari (Mar Addai’s disciple) as her founder.  The Churches in Persia and India always claimed Marthoma Sliha himself as their Apostle.  Thus it becomes clear that the Apostolic heritages of all these Churches are the same, namely, the Christ experience of Marthoma Sliha, the Apostle.   It is an accepted fact that India had commercial relations with Palestine and Middle East countries even before Christ.


The root cause of most of the difficult relations Christians of India have suffered since 16th century is the total, or nearly total absence of any Church-awareness among its Oriental people.  Most of the laity and priests do not even know that they belong to the Oriental Church, known as the Church of the East of the Marthoma Nazranis.  Instead of trying their level best to provide the people of their Church with an Eastern liturgy of the most wholesome type, those who are at the helm of affairs have begun destroying it piece by piece in order to replace it by what could be rightly described as a hocus-pocus liturgy.   If all this failure could be attributed to sincere attempt, though unsuccessful, one could at least find some consolation in that very sincerity and in that plea for Indianization.  But the much wanted Indianization has actually been transformed into a neo-latinization of the most unpardonable type.  Those Parankis responsible for Diamper and its aftermath, could be still excused for lack of know how.  But our today’s would – be – reformers of Syro-Malabar liturgy can find no excuse for their work of destruction.  Afterall, they still want to look Latin.  Why not be entirely incorporated into that tradition, if it looks better, provides a better status in the Church Universal and gives you all the appearances of Western Superiority ?


The pathetic condition of the so called Syro-Malabar Church (the Church of the East of the Marthoma Nazranis) is that it is neither oriental nor latin.  There exists nothing oriental in the Syro-Malabar  Church today. With the unanimous decision of the Synod to celebrate the Qurbana against the structure and theology of this  Church the hierarchy declared  that they are no more Orientals. The so-called oriental bishops asserted that if the fraction led by the Major Archbishop does not  implement the decision they would  also withdraw from the decision. But they were very zealous to implement it. This means that they were cheating their people. The Major Archbishop could at least  personally celebrate it. But he also did not.  Thus, the decision of the Synod was a calculated move to destroy the liturgy of this Church. Now they continue the same  trend.


As we have seen, the problems of Marthoma Nazranis began with the arrival of foreign colonialists.  They are gone.  But their by-products (latinised Bishops and Priests) create trouble now.  Today’s problems are the creation of past four hundred years.  Our forefathers struggled hard to preserve our identity.  But today, many try to destroy our faith, our identity, our Indianised Syriac Christian spirituality, our Church itself.   Whatever His Eminence, Cardinal Tissarant and Rev Fr Placid Podipara had restored after laborious study and research, was being systematically destroyed by the hierarchy of this Church today.


The Synodal decision of 1999 is an adjustment.  Majority of our Bishops and priests are practicing the theology of adjustments. They get this formation in the seminary itself. They adjust everything including liturgy. We can see this adjustment in the spiritual and moral life also.


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 in Goa.  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 Goa gained 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 or Portugal 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.