Concredita Nobis

following the Nobili tradition. It had already been decided in Rome to send a Legate with exceptional powers to China, Thomas de Tournon, to settle the dispute over the Jesuit policy towards Confucianism. His instructions were, in fact, to settle the dispute by condemning the practices usually referred to as the 'Mandarin Rites' and bring their practice to an end. With the arrival in Rome of the complaints from the Capuchins, de Tournon was instructed to go to Pondicherry and there settle this Indian dispute also.

De Tournon stayed in Pondicherry for eight months, before leaving for China in July 1704. He interviewed a large number of witnesses but how far he understood the issues has to be queried, as he knew no Indian language and was ill most ofthe time. He issued his judgement on 23 June 1704. It condemned the structure of accommodation begun by Roberto de Nobili, a structure which at that very moment appeared to receive sanctification in the eyes of many within the Catholic Church by the initiation of the process of beatification of the martyred Jesuit pandaraswami, John Britto. Despite an intellectually rigorous defence of the Nobili position by Francisco Laynes, Procurator of the Madurai mission, which briefly gave some hope of reprieve, none came. The Holy Office endorsed de Tournon's decisions. The Malabar Rites, as the system was named, not entirely appropriately, were again formally condemned and any disobedience threatened with severe punishment in papal briefs Compertum of August 1734 and Concredita nobis of May 1739. The papacy, in effect, relegated Hinduism officially to the position it would hold in the eyes of most European observers, Catholic or Protestant, throughout the eighteenth century - that is, it was portrayed as a mixture of idolatry and depraved superstition.

It was just as this crisis was developing that the first Protestant missionaries to India arrived at the Danish factory at Tranquebar on the Coramandel coast of south India. Heinrich Plutschau and Bartholemaus Ziegenbalg had been sent there by the pious King of Denmark, Frederick IV. Ziegenbalg plunged into the study of Tamil but showed no knowledge ofthe existence ofthe many Catholic books in the language until, during an effort to collect Tamil palm-leaf books, he discovered that a number of them were Christian books. His study progressed rapidly and this devout orthodox Lutheran became an authority on south Indian Hinduism. In 1713 he produced a well-researched book, The Genealogy ofthe Malabarian Gods. He sent it to Halle, the mission-training centre in Germany where he had studied, intending it to be published in Europe as an aid to Christians in their understanding of Hinduism. However, the response of the director at Halle, A. H. Franke, was to put it on a shelf in the library, where it lay until discovered in the 1860s. Franke remarked that missionaries

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