COLONIES AND MISSIONS



From the time of the rise of the Islamic caliphate to the early modern period, Christendom was ever more strictly confined to Europe, and Christianity was largely a European faith, with a few isolated and often beleaguered outposts to the South and East. In the 16th and 17th centuries, however, Christianity became a truly global faith, spreading to the South, West and East. In part, this happened by way of colonization of the newly discovered Americas, and in part by way of missions. And among the Christian missionaries of the age, the most remarkable were the Jesuits.


The way to European settlement of the Americas was, of course, opened by the four transatlantic voyages of Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), from 1492 to 1504, and so Spain — which sponsored Columbus's venture — became the first European nation to profit from and establish itself in the New World. By 1497, however, England gained a foothold in the Americas by its sponsorship of another Italian explorer, Giovanni Caboto (c. 1450—r. 1499) - or John Cabot - the discoverer of Newfoundland. The 1500 voyage of the Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvarez Cabral (1467-1520) opened up Brazil. And, between 1523 and 1528, Giovanni da Verrazzano (1485-1528) - who ended up being eaten by cannibals in the Antilles - planted the French standard in North America and the 'West Indies'.

The New World


The nations that established colonies in the New World, needless to say, were interested primarily in the acquisition of territory and the gathering of spoils, not in the advance of Christianity into heathen lands. But where the new colonial empires spread, missionaries followed. And in some cases, as with the Jesuit missions to Latin America, these missionaries were the only allies the indigenous peoples had against governments that wished to enslave or displace them. A testament to the idealism and the talents of the Jesuits of Latin America were the 'Reductions' (reducciones) they established in Paraguay, Argentina and southern Brazil: these were autonomous Indian communities, with townships, schools, churches, libraries, public arts and native industries; from 1609 to 1768, many of these Reductions together constituted an independent republic, administered only by the Society of Jesus. Ultimately, though, Spain and Portugal invaded and destroyed the Reductions, seized the land, subjugated the Indians, and expelled the Jesuits.


The English settlements in North America were not organized imperial ventures, but independent colonies; and their religious configurations were determined by the conditions of their original charters, and in part by the vicissitudes of English religious history. It is imprecise, but not entirely inaccurate, to say (using the terms provided by the English Civil Wars of 1642 to 1651) that the colonies of the South - Virginia (1607), Maryland (1634) and Carolina (1670) - were 'Cavalier' country, while the colonies of the North were generally 'Roundhead' or 'Puritan'. During the reign (1625-49) of Charles I (1600-49), for instance, thousands of English Puritans fled persecution at home to the New England settlements; and during the years of the Commonwealth in England, many Cavaliers migrated to Virginia. Maryland was a special case, since it began as a haven for English Catholics. Its charter was granted by Charles I in 1632 to Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore (1605-75), who established the colony in 1634. In 1649, moreover, the Maryland General Assembly instituted the 'Act of Religious Toleration', which granted full freedom of worship to all Christian communions. In 1650, however, Puritans sheltering under that toleration overthrew the government and outlawed Catholicism and Anglicanism both. With their defeat in 1658, the Act of Toleration was re-instituted; but, after England's installation of the Protestant monarchs William III (1650-1702) and Mary II (1662-94), an Anglican establishment was imposed on Maryland and Catholicism was suppressed.


[There is a sketch of a mission by Father Florian Paucke, a Swiss Jesuit who lived and worked with the Mocobi people of the Chaw region of Argentina]



The Jesuit Missions in Ethiopia and India



From its beginning, the Society of Jesus was a missionary order, and the first mission for which Ignatius Loyola requested papal authorization was to Ethiopia, where Portugal had conducted various embassies since 1490. The mission was a failure, since most Ethiopians were already Christians, and so the purpose of any Catholic mission could be only to promote submission to Rome. The Jesuit Pedro Paez (1564-1622) - who came to Ethiopia in 1603 - did procure a profession of such submission from the emperor Malak Sagad III (1572-1632), who hoped thereby to attract Western military assistance; and the emperor did try to impose Roman Catholicism on his people. Paez's successor, Alfonso Mendez, arrived in 1624 and, with the emperor's help, immediately set about suppressing all native Christian practices; when this provoked revolt, however, Mendez did not hesitate to have indigenous 'heretics' burned. The emperor was forced to abdicate in 1632 in favour of his son Fasilidas (d.1662), who promptly expelled all Catholic missionaries.


The missions to India were far more successful, though (again) the indigenous Christians were not well served by them. The Portuguese ruled in Goa, in the southwestern part of the subcontinent, and it was here that the Catholic missions arrived. The most famous of the Jesuit missionaries to preach in India was St Francis Xavier (1506—52), who won thousands of converts among the fishermen of the south. In 1560, however, an Inquisition was established, in large part to enforce conformity of the St Thomas Christians of India to Roman rule; over the next century, in the course of various insurrections, almost all of the ancient literature of the Indian Christians - and a few of the Christians themselves — were consigned to the flames. When the Dutch seized most of the Malabar region in the 1660s, the St Thomas community regained much of its liberty; but it was a divided community ever thereafter.


The Far East


Jesuit missions to Japan began in 1549, in the vanguard of Portugal's mercantile embassies. Francis Xavier was the first to arrive, and found the island empire extraordinarily fertile ground for the propagation of Christian beliefs. And, indeed, converts were made in every class; even certain powerful feudal lords embraced the new faith, along with many of their samurai and commoner subjects. Later in the century, though, Dominicans and Franciscans, sponsored by Spain, also began to arrive in the country, which led to a number of unseemly disputes among the different missionary orders. In the end, however, there was nothing for which to fight. In 1587, the prime imperial minister Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-98) outlawed Christianity among the aristocracy and instituted the first persecutions of Japanese Christians and foreign missionaries; in 1597, 26 Christians (20 of them native Japanese) were crucified in Nagasaki. And in 1614 the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu (1543-1616), inaugurated the total ban on Catholicism that remained in place until 1873. During those centuries, though, a small number of Japanese 'Kirishitans' kept the faith in secret, without priests or catechists.


As a rule, Catholic missionaries to the East were better able consistently to exhibit Christ-like gentleness in lands where their missions could not become implicated in the politics of empire. The Tibetan missions of Jesuits such as Antonio de Andrade (1580-1634) and Ippolito Desideri (1684—1733), for instance, were necessarily marked by humility and a certain intellectual generosity. And the Jesuit missions in China that began in 1582 were originally models of peaceful intellectual and cultural exchange, in large part because the most remarkable of the missionaries to China - Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) and Michele Ruggieri (1543-1607) - wished to aid in the creation of a genuinely Chinese Christianity, in harmony with native forms of piety and philosophy, and as untainted by 'Europeanism' as possible. Ricci was especially drawn to Confucianism (the dominant tradition among the rich and educated) through which he believed divine truth had made itself known to the Chinese from ancient times. Ruggieri, by contrast, was drawn to Taoism (which flourished more among persons of lower estate) and believed that it was principally under the form of the Tao that a knowledge of God's eternal Logos had entered China. This difference occasionally caused tension between the two men's converts; but both Ricci and Ruggieri passionately believed in the presence of a 'primordial revelation' in Chinese tradition, and that the philosophical and spiritual riches of that tradition might one day - as had once happened with the traditions of Greece and Rome — be assumed into a new Christian cultural synthesis.

THE CHINESE RITES

Matteo Ricci believed that, if Christianity was to be made credible in the eyes of the Chinese people, it should not offend against their natural pieties and ceremonial forms. Many of the indigenous rites of the Chinese - such as offerings made in honour of the emperor, their ancestors, Confucius, or Shang-ti (the Heavenly Emperor, or God) - he regarded as perfectly admirable expressions of civilized reverence and entirely compatible with Christianity.


Early in the 17th century, however, the 'Chinese Rites Controversy' broke out between, on the one side, the Jesuits, who generally subscribed to Ricci's view, and, on the other, the Dominicans and Franciscans in China, who saw such rites as inherently heathen, idolatrous and even demonic in inspiration. The latter appealed to Rome, which forbade all such rites for Chinese Christians in 1645, only to reverse its decision in 1656 after a Jesuit appeal. Yet the controversy did not abate, and in 1704, 1715 and 1742, Rome issued decrees prohibiting the Chinese rites; the last of these, promulgated by Benedict XIV (1676-1758), even forbade any further discussion of the matter.


The papal bull of 1715 proved a grave misfortune for European missions in China.The Kangxi emperor (1654-1722) - the greatest of the Manchu Qing dynasty emperors, and perhaps the greatest ruler China ever possessed - had until then been quite well disposed to the Christians; he especially valued the scientific knowledge, scholarship and artistic skills of the Jesuits who served in the imperial court, and in 1692 issued a decree of toleration of Christian worship in China, particularly commending the peaceful nature of this 'venerable' faith.


When the Kangxi emperor read the papal bull in 1722, however - which not only banned all the  traditional Chinese rites, but forbade Christians even to refer to God by such traditional Chinese names as Shang-ti or Tien (Heaven), or to mark their churches with the traditional temple sign 'Reverence for Heaven' - he reacted with a decree in which he berated the 'occidentals' for their pettiness, their ignorance and their bigotry (reminiscent, he said, of the bigotry of certain Buddhist or Taoist sects), and prohibited all further Christian evangelization in China.

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TO  BE  CONTINUED


IT  WAS  THE  BEGINNING  OF  THE  CHURCH  OF  ROME  TO  SPREAD  AROUND  THE  WORLD,  WITH  VARIOUS  UPS  AND  DOWNS  OF  SUCCESS.  BUT  OVER  THE  CENTURIES  TO  COME  SHE  WOULD  INFLUENCE  MOST  NATIONS  OF  THE  WORLD,  FOR  EXAMPLE,  THE  CELEBRATION  OF  JANUARY  1ST  AS  NEW  YEAR  DAY,  IS  NOW  OBSERVED  BY  JUST  ABOUT  ALL  NATIONS  ON  EARTH.....THIS  IS  A  ROMAN  CATHOLIC  ADOPTION  FROM  PAGAN  ROME.


READING  REVELATION  17  TELLS  YOU  ABOUT  THIS  BABYLON  BEAST  POWER  AND  HER  SPIRITUAL  FORNICATION  MAKING  THE  WHOLE  WORLD  DRUNK,  AND  IN  HER  IS  ALSO  FOUND  THE  BLOOD  OF  THE  TRUE  SAINTS  OF  GOD.


THERE  IS  A  VERY  DARK  SIDE  TO  THE  ROMAN  CHURCH  AND  MANY  OF  ITS  POPES.  A  BOOK  HAS  BEEN  WRITTEN  ON  THIS  DARK  SIDE,  WHICH  I  HAVE  AND  ONE  DAY  WILL  UPLOAD  UNDER  THIS  SECTION  OF  MY  WEBSITE.


Keith Hunt