By IJ Saldanha Shet
Mangalore, May 19, 2011: Canara - From Karwar in the North to Kasargod in the South became home to Konkani Roman Catholics as early as 1550 under the Goan Church. An independent Vicarate under Bishop Michael Anthony ocd was established on March 15,3. Since then the church of Mangalore has grown in all dimensions. On June 23, 1886 the Vicarate was raised to the status of a Diocese and the Vicar Apostolic of Mangalore, Most Rev. Nicholas Maria Pagani sj became the first Bishop of Mangalore. Under the guidance of the present Bishop of Mangalore, Rt. Rev. Dr. Aloysius P D’Souza, the 125 years is being marked commencing 2011.
The erstwhile South Kanara comprises the present Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts. Konkani Christians migrated from places in Goa between 1500 AD to 1763 AD. For decades, the Catholic Church and it’s institutions have played a yeoman role in maintaining and promoting Konkani as the language of tradition, giving the church a unique identity here.
In the Beginning:
Konkani Christians migrated from Goa because of political, economic, cultural and other reasons. Portuguese rulers of Goa tried to enforce cultural assimilation of Konkani Christians into the Western culture. Their personal names, food habits and even dress were made to conform to the contemporary European Christian standards. As long as the Konkani Christians tried to maintain a separate identity through their language, customs and manners, the Portuguese government practiced social discrimination. This is one factor that made the original Konkani Christians leave Goa.
Another reason the Konkani Christians migrated from Goa was the Edict of Goa Inquisition. The contemporary records give some insight: It wanted to eliminate all the traces of paganism in the customs and manners of the native Christians with particular reference to birth, marriage, death, festivals and dress. It created a sense of fear and insecurity instead of love and brotherhood in the minds of the native Christians. Thus the Goa Inquisition triggered a built-in religious cause for the migration of the Konkani Christians to South Kanara.
The rulers of Vijayanagara and the Nayakas of Keladi encouraged the Konkani Christian migration because they were a useful group in the economic set up of the region. Their abilities, ethics, discipline and loyalty were valued qualities. The Konkani Christians came to South Kanara during this period as artisans, merchants, cultivators and even for the propagation of faith. Agricultural land was available in South Kanara in sufficient quantity for cultivation. Gradually, the Konkani Christians learnt Kannada and Tulu, but retained Konkani as their mother tongue, they built churches, organized parishes, were efficient agriculturists, started industries to promote socio-economic development in their own way establishing them as permanent indispensable respected citizens in the land.
Then came the rule of Mysore under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan between 1761 - 1799 AD. When South Kanara was under their rule, the Konkani Christians had to suffer banishment. The Konkani Christians of South Kanara were caught up in the crossfire of Anglo-Mysore relations and many of them were subjected under Tipu Sultan to what the Konkani Christians call the ’Captivity’. Tipu shaped the policy of captivity over fifteen long years which brought inhuman misery, death, torture and more to the captured Konkani Christians.
The fourth Anglo-Mysore war led to the liberation of Christians from captivity after 15 years. The British took over South Kanara after the fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799 AD. Most of the Christians who survived the captivity returned to South Kanara. They resettled on their land and their land holdings were to some extent restored.
St. Aloysius Chapel, Mangalore
Milagres Church, Mangalore
St. Lawrence Church, Karkala
Diocese of Mangalore
The Diocese of Mangalore covers the geographical area of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts in Karnataka and a part of Kasargod district in Kerala. It is made up of roughly 160 parishes. These Konkani speakers along the west coast of Peninsular India are believed to originate from settlers from the banks of the river ‘Sarasvati’ (a tributary of the river Sindhu- from which Sind and Hind are derived) which became extinct. There were three main waves of settlement of Konkanis’ in Canara : after 1560 because of the Inquisition and after 1570 and 1683 because of famines and political upheavals.
Presently, the Diocese of Mangalore is a large and well organized integral component of the Church under the Pope based in the Vatican. The Canon law that it is bound to provides a distinct administrative and hierarchical system which may be considered impersonal and aloof but working for progress and development. Some view it as having acquired similar ills that dog the civil governmental systems in vogue. There are moves underway to bring in more democracy in the functioning of Church matters universally under the guidance of the Roman Curia and Pope Benedict XVI.
The impressive record of the Church in CANARA under the banner of the Diocese of Mangalore over the last 125 years: Established by the order of Pope Leo XIII in 1886; the Bishops at the head:Bishop.Nicholas M Pagani (1878-95), Bishop Abundis Cavadini (1895-1910), Bishop. Paul Perini (1910-28), Bishop Valerian J D’Souza (1928-30), Bishop Victor R Fernandes (1931-55),Bishop Basil S Peres (1955-58), Bishop Raymond D’Mello (1959-64), Bishop Basil S.D’Souza (1965-96) and presently Bishop Aloysius P D’Souza.
Finally, a look at the salient information on the Diocese: It is spread over an area of 9,425 sq.kms out of a population of 41 lakhs Catholics number around 3.8 lakhs, in about 160 parishes. The clergy within it’s ambit is estimated to be 400 plus. Religious women now touches the 2000 mark. The educational institutions from KG to PG and professional are aplenty and increasing day by day. Also homes for the elderly, boardings,hostels, dispensaries,asylums are run admitting the needy of all communities. The entire region has benefited from this singular entity that stands in the name of God. The Diocese of Mangalore in these 125 years gone by has shown a remarkable upward trajectory in all spheres - except it’s demographic numbers. Even the great advent it faced between 1784-99 had not deterred it. Will it continue it’s forward momentum of growth by opening it’s policies to the legitimate demands and arise to the modern for ’Empowering the Laity’ democratizing it’s operations in keeping with world wide trends. Will it triumph in the true spirit of Christianity is now an all pervading question. What will the future be?
Rosario Cathedral, Mangalore
Rosario Cathedral is the mother churches of around 160 parishes of Mangalore Diocese. It’s high dome is impressively a smaller likeness of Vatican’s St.Peter’s Basilica, Bro.Divo SJ of Bombay is credited to be it’s architect. The inscription seen above the main entrance portico reads “1568 – Queen of the Rosary Bless India – 1925”. The simple interpretation of this is; the first ever church here was established in 1568 and the now existing structure of the Cathedral was completed and dedicated in 1925. Therefore it is now 443 years since 1568 when the first ever church was established here, perhaps just a make shift one. It also goes to say that the present visible edifice is set to celebrate one hundred years in 2025,since it was dedicated in 1925.
Known to be the oldest of the three pioneer Catholic churches in this region, the spot is believed to be the authentic one. An old weathered granite court of arms of the Portuguese king can be seen near the entrance of the present Cathedral. Situated just North East of the confluence of the two rivers Netravathi and Gurpura/Phalguni in the vicinity of the vortex of current power and administration ( The Portuguese built their fort nearby called Fort St.Antony, the British fortifications called the Fort St.Sebastian) – the Govt offices and Old Port ‘Bunder’. Blessed Joseph Vaz, a saintly Goan priest known as the ‘Apostle of Ceylon’ played an important role in the history of the Rosario Church in 1691. This Cathedral, historically is the seat of the Bishop of Mangalore, though for decades the Bishop resides at the Official Bishop’s House at Kodialbail a couple of kilometers away.
The Historic Backdrop:
From early times, the Catholic atmosphere has abounded in unique Mangalore. It has gained the label ‘Rome of the East.’ Occidental influence has been ever present and like Rome it is dominated by seven hills. The original Tuluva inhabitants are Dravidian by nature. Tulu the local official dialect refers to this spot as “KUDLA” (confluence) which is affectionately used to this day. The Konkani speakers, refer to it as ‘Kodial’. Kannada is the scholastic medium for official and commercial matters. Presently, the whole world knows this place as ‘MANGALORE’ after the name of it’s 10th century premier temple deity ‘Mangaladevi’.
This Rosario Church was raised to the status of a ‘Cathedral’ in 1850 and the present city limits was a single parish under it, in 1886 the first division took place followed at regular intervals, creating several parish as need arose. Presently there are several Catholic churches and institutions in Mangalore: Milagres, Bendur, Bijey, Urwa, Kulur, Cascia, Kulshekar Jeppu and so on. Some of the major institutions under the diocese are: St.Joseph’s Diocesan Seminary, Fr.Muller’s Medical Centre, St.Ann’s College School and Convent, St.Aloysius College and Historic Chapel, St.Agnes College School and Convent, St.Josephs Engineering college, St.Antony’s Ashram and several others. Many Bishops of Mangalore and prominent persons are entombed behind and around the present high alter and in the church. It is today one church where a traditional pulpit can still be seen though used rarely (also one at the Bishops house chapel at Kodialbail). The present Cathedral structure that is seen today took fourteen years to complete 1910 -1924. In 2009 a great deal of artistic works were done particularly in the sanctuary that has given the atmosphere an aesthetic sense of sacredness. It is today a dynamic and modern Parish with a wide spectrum of activities and institutions in the heart of the commercial and official center of the city of Mangalore.
The Present Bishop of Mangalore
Aloysius Paul D’Souza
Born on June 21, 1941 in Agrar, Mangalore and ordained on Dec. 3, 1966, he was appointed Auxiliary bishop of Mangalore on Jan. 11, 1996 and later Bishop of Mangalore. His Episcopal ordination was on Dec. 27, 1996. He was the first Rector of the St. Joseph’s seminary, Jeppu, after it was handed over to the diocese by the Jesuits, when he was appointed bishop. Due to his efforts and initiatives many educational institutions have come up, including Engineering college, Medical and Nursing Colleges and more . He brought out the first Konkani Bible, and nurtured vocations through faith formation programs in parishes. Bishop A P D’Souza had done his doctoral thesis on Canon Law and had served as the Advocate of Rota in Rome. He is a personality much loved by the people and can be called " A People’s Bishop." He is invariably seen among the public in the Diocese and even outside having widely travelled. This is the Bishop’s 15th year in office, and his continued service is the hope and prayer of all concerned.
by I.J.Saldanha Shet