Indian letters, soon became an effective instrument of propaganda in Europe for overseas missions.
The correspondence is revealing of the innovations and originality of the great Italian Jesuit missionary in south India, Fr Roberto de Nobili. He began his missionary work in 1606 at Madurai, one ofthe ancient centres ofTamil culture. In order to gain broad acceptance, he declared himself to be a member of the Italian nobility and ofthe raja (kingly) class, and a twice-born Roman Brahman. He dressed in the Brahman sanyasi mode, wore the sacred thread, the kudumi, and put on wooden sandals. He learnt Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit and began reformulating Christianity in the terms and thought patterns of Indian religious civilization. He eventually made over 30,000 converts and a century after his death, the mission he established could boast of over 200,000 Christians. His religious motto was, appropriately, ' Aperireportam' (to open the door).
De Nobili's intellectual gifts, his capacity to absorb and communicate the learning that he found in the land of his adoption, were outstanding. Though accused of being fixated on high caste, his perspectives went beyond caste and custom. He possessed an impressive spirit of penance and was called 'Tattuva Podagar (the Brahman mendicant) by all. However, he encountered opposition from the Hindus, and even more from some of his fellow missionaries and church leaders. Although the Jesuits in Rome and even Pope Gregory XV initially supported his innovations, eventually many of the practices he proposed for his new converts were banned by Rome. He had continually sought to understand Hinduism from within; his aim had been not merely to convert the high-caste Brahmans, but through them to bring the whole of India to Christ.
The de Nobili method of mission remained a contentious issue through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In 1703, Charles Maillard de Tournon was sent as papal delegate to China and then to India to settle matters of the ' Chinese Rites' and 'Malabar Rites'. He ruled that there should be no compromise in the matter and that the two rites must be rejected. In 1739, Pope Clement XII required all missionaries to sign an oath to this effect. Pope Benedict XIV, by his instruction Omnium Sollicitudinum of 12 September 1744, ruled that all Catholics, whatever their caste, should hear Mass and receive communion in the same church and at the same time. The Jesuits adhered to the ruling, but they built separate entrances for believers from the low castes to enter the common churches and installed small divisions within the churches to separate the low from the high castes.
Not as intellectually gifted as de Nobili, yet equally sympathetic to Hinduism, was the Portuguese Jesuit, St Joao de Brito. He dressed in the garb
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