“True Faith” and Cultural Translations. Jesuit Mission in Malabar and the Literary Legacy of Francisco Roz S.J. (1559-1624)

17.05.2024 15:15 - 16:45

Emy Merin Joy | Central European University, Vienna

Jahresvortrag des Vereins Sammlung De Nobili

The missionary strategies of the Jesuits were different depending on the region and population they were engaging with. However, encountering the ancient Indian Christians, also known as St. Thomas or Syrian Christians, who claimed their lineage from St. Thomas the Apostle, prompted the missionaries to recognize the significance of adopting an accommodation approach to conversion. Additionally, as the St. Thomas Christians were already acquainted with the Christian message, albeit with what the Jesuits deemed ‘some erroneous ideas,’ reintegrating them into the Catholic fold was seen as a process of re-conversion and internal purification within the community.

This presentation aims to provide a comprehensive overview and a literary perspective of the Jesuit mission and their methods of cultural translation, focusing particularly on Malabar, i.e present-day Kerala. To achieve this, I will analyze the Paravur Dialogues (last quarter of the 16th century, possibly before 1599), an interfaith debate between two Jews, a Pagan (Hindu), a Christian, and a Muslim, seemingly written by Francisco Roz S.J (1559-1624), a Catalan Jesuit priest who later became the first European archbishop of the Christians of Malabar and was also the patron of Roberto de Nobili. Additionally, I will examine the Canons of the Synod of Diamper (1599), the acts and the decrees of the Synod convened by the Goan Archbishop, Aleixo de Menezes (1559-1617) in 1599 imposing post-Tridentine Latin Christianity among the local Christians of Malabar and The Statutes of Francisco Roz S.J (1606), rules and regulations for the diocese of Angamaly and Cranganore, of which Roz was the archbishop. These are some of the earliest surviving missionary literature in Malayalam.

This analysis offers new insights into the early history of Jesuit accommodation and contributes to a re-evaluation of the role of Francisco Roz as one of the great theoreticians and practitioners of the accommodationist approach. It also sheds light on the circulation of European knowledge in Kerala. This kind of analysis is particularly important because so far, very few studies have been done on the missionary literature and the ‘contributions’ of the Jesuit mission to the language and literature of Kerala and the Paravur Dialogues in particular, remained in oblivion to the scholarly world.

Verein Sammlung De Nobili | Institut für Südasien-, Tibet-und Buddhismuskunde
Seminarraum 1 des Instituts für Südasien-, Tibet- und Buddhismuskunde. Campus der Universität Wien, Spitalgasse 2, Hof 2.7, 1090 Wien