“Unusual Christian Anthologies” on the Occidental-Oriental Integration




George Alexander

The research publications entitled Western Rites of Syriac-Malankara Orthodox Churches (Part -I) and Western Rites of Syriac-Malankara Orthodox Churches- Leadership, Structure and Social Impact (Part-II) feature a vast amount of scholarly materials with regard to Independent Catholicism or Western Rite Orthodox movements.

Intriguing, Revelatory and Highly-Engaging” – Fr. Angelos of Holy Trinity Orthodox Theological Seminary, USA.

Penned by Dr. Ajesh T. Philip and George Alexander, the books portray religious and social life as well as struggles of Independent Catholic Christians in Portuguese Goa, the British Raj, and British Ceylon. The books are a result of intense fieldwork and document study of the ongoing research that began in 2009. The first part of the book speaks of the missionary life of saintly Metropolitan Alvares Julius and his companions. The second part sheds light upon the social reformation initiated by the leaders of the Independent Catholic Church and its structures. Born as a Roman Catholic in Goa, Julius rebelled against Portuguese and Roman Catholic imperial policies and reunited with the ancient Orthodox Church of Malankara. The leaders of the Independent Catholic Church were deeply involved in the socio-political life in the Portuguese Goa and British Ceylon.

An excellent, conscientious historical masterpiece” Cincy Mariamma Thomas- Faculty of Religion at St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary.

Independent Catholic Church of Ceylon, Goa, and India

The reunion was a result of the Padroado-Propaganda conflict that shook the Roman Catholic Church in India, Ceylon and elsewhere. He was the chief organizer of the Padroado Defense Association (PDA) which eventually became the Independent Catholic Church of Goa, Ceylon, and India. This community was received as one of the Western Rites of the Syriac-Malankara Orthodox Churches. Metropolitan Alvares began his mission from Goa but later moved to Ceylon, where his Church flourished and gained a large number of adherents. He was supported by great leaders like Dr. Lisboa Pinto, Fr. Luis Mariano Soares, Stephen Silva and many others. Alvares Julius was ordained as the Metropolitan-Archbishop of Goa, Ceylon, and India, excluding Malabar. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Good Death, Buona Morte Church in Colombo, was the headquarters of this Church.

The books present reader with a vast amount of scholarly research that is often neglected in the field of Church history’. Dina Blokland- The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Even though the Independent Catholic movement began in Goa, it could not flourish much in the place of its origin due to the imperial policies of the Goan Portuguese authorities. As a result of the religious and political pressure from the Roman Catholic and Portuguese government, the leaders of this church moved to the southern part of India (Kerala and Tamil Nadu) and shifted their headquarters from Goa to Colombo. Ceylon was an ideal place for them to survive and flourish. The movement flourished among the coastal belts of Ceylon. Several Sinhalese communities were involved with the Church as well.

Socio-Political Importance of the Independent Catholic Church of Ceylon, Goa, and India

Apart from the above-mentioned activities, the leaders of the Independent Catholic Church were involved with the sociopolitical life in Ceylon. For example, Dr. P.M. Lisboa Pinto, the first Lay-Trustee of this church, was instrumental in establishing the first workers’ union movements in Ceylon. Metropolitan Alvares Julius was a well-known nationalist, patriot and anti-imperialist. He has made immense contributions in the field of press and education. He initiated the first English newspaper, The Times of Goa, and was behind the radical nationalist newspaper O Brado Indiano. As a writer and political activist, Metropolitan Alvares exposed the corruptions of the ruling Portuguese authorities in Goa, which resulted in his arrest and exile. He started several educational institutions. He served the poor and the sick and hence became known by the name “Apostle of Charity.” Metropolitan Alvares published a few books and one among them propagated way to overcome food shortages in Portuguese Goa.

 An exhaustive and intense research” – George Joseph Enchakkattil -Coordinating Editor – Georgian Mirror.

The “American-British” and “French-Canadian” Connections

Rene Vilatte, the famous French-American Independent Catholic Missionary and Community Church organizer, was consecrated as an Archbishop in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Good Death by the hands of Archbishop Julius and venerable Prelates St. Gregorious of Parumala and Paul Athanasius of the ancient Orthodox Church of Malankara. The adventurous and exciting episcopal journey of Rene Vilatte began from the Old Cathedral in Colombo. The consecration of Rene Vilatte resulted in the unusual ecclesiastical relations between India, Ceylon and the rest of the world (USA, UK, France and elsewhere). This relation was extended to the United Kingdom when Archbishop Rene Vilatte ordained the famous Anglican Benedictine monk Joseph Leycester Lyne (also known Father Ignatius of Jesus or Ignatius of Llanthony), who commenced a movement to introduce monasticism to the Church of England. Moreover, there was an attempt to start a traditional Catholic Church in the United Kingdom under the patronage of Archbishop Vilatte. It is also exciting to understand that the original Church movement that elected Padre Vilatte to the Episcopate presently exists in Canada by the name Christian Catholic Church Canada, which is part of the Intentional Council of Community Churches. Archbishop Vilatte’s life began and it came to an end in France. The “French-Canadian connections” add an exciting flavor to the research as well.

p‘The books depict historical account in impeccable and descriptive detail’ – John Tsambazis – Award Winning Executive Producer at Clapstick Pictures.

For more Info please visit – http://theorthodoxchurch.info/alvares/

The Effort

The books portray the religious and social life as well as the struggles of Independent Catholic Christians in Portuguese Goa, British Raj, and British Ceylon. They are published on behalf of OCP-MARP, and the authors are working on the second part. The researchers are in the process of rediscovering many interesting aspects. It took nine years of hard work between 2009 and 2018 to publish the research document. This is a humble and straightforward attempt to fill the missing links in world Christian history. One of the major challenges of the research project was to identify and gather the dispersed and obscure historical data which has been successfully achieved by the authors.A historic attempt to fill a crucial gap in the history of Indian and global Christianity” – Fr. Dr. Jacob Kurien – Director of the Orthodox Syrian Sunday School Association of the East.

Relevance of the Work

The Occidental-Oriental Flavour

This is the pilot attempt for Independent Catholic or Western Rite Orthodox communities of Ceylon, Goa, and India. The authors have tried to unveil a small part of the forgotten Christian past. However, it is not limited to the historical context; rather the researchers have connected the historical aspects with the current ecclesiastical scenario. The work also sheds light upon the cultural and political aspects of Independent Catholics. It has a multi-dimensional value. The books echo the importance of Occidental-Oriental religious and cultural union. The work has historical, sociopolitical, cultural, and ecclesiastical aspects, and attempts to rediscover a “lost past” and to foster relations between different cultures in the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere. Hence the work is unique in several repects.


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