- Catholic missions
The New Testament missionary outreach of the Christian church from the time of St Paul was extensive throughout the
Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages the Christian monasteriesand missionaries such as Saint Patrick, and Adalbert of Praguepropagated learning and religion beyond the boundaries of the old Roman Empire. In the 7th century Gregory the Greatsent missionaries including Augustine of Canterburyinto England. During the Age of Discovery, the Roman Catholic Churchestablished a number of Missions in the Americas and other colonies through the Augustinians, Franciscansand Dominicans in order to spread Christianity in the New World and to convert the Native Americans and other indigenous people. At the same time, missionaries such as Francis Xavieras well as other Jesuits, Augustinians, Franciscans and Dominicans were moving into Asia and the far East. The Portuguese sent missions into Africa. These are some of the most well-known missions in history. While some of these missions were associated with imperialism and oppression, others (notably Matteo Ricci's Jesuitmission to China) were relatively peaceful and focused on integration rather than cultural imperialism.
As the church normally organizes itself along territorial lines, and because they had the human and material resources, religious orders--some even specializing in it--undertook most missionary work, especially in the early phases. Over time a normalised church structure was gradually established in the mission area, often starting with special jurisdictions known as apostolic prefectures and apostolic vicariates. These developing churches eventually intended 'graduating' to regular diocesan status with a local episcopacy appointed, especially after declonization, as the church structures often reflect the political-administrative reality.
Jesuit mission to China
The history of the missions of the
Jesuits in Chinain the early modern era stands as one of the notable events in the early history of relations between China and the Western world, as well as a prominent example of relations between two cultures and belief systems in the pre-modern age. The missionary efforts and other work of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits between the 16th and 17th century played a significant role in introducing Western knowledge, science, and culture to China. Their work laid much of the foundation for much of Christian culture in Chinese society today. Members of the Jesuit delegation to China were perhaps the most influential Christian missionaries in that country between the earliest period of the religion up until the 19th century, when significant numbers of Catholic and Protestant missions developed.
The first attempt by
Jesuits to reach Chinawas made in 1552 by St. Francis Xavier, Spanish priest and missionary and founding member of the Society. Xavier, however, died the same year on the Chinese island of Shangchuan, without having reached the mainland. Three decades later, in 1582, led by several figures including the prominent Italian Matteo Ricci, Jesuits once again initiated mission work in China, ultimately introducing Western science, mathematics, astronomy, and visual arts to the imperial court, and carrying on significant inter-cultural and philosophical dialoguewith Chinese scholars, particularly representatives of Confucianism. At the time of their peak influence, members of the Jesuit delegation were considered some of the emperor's most valued and trusted advisors, holding numerous prestigious posts in the imperial government. Many Chinese, including notable former Confucian scholars, adopted Christianity and became priests and members of the Society of Jesus.
The Jesuits in China
Jesuitsfirst arrived in China in 1574. The Jesuits were men whose vision went far beyond the Macao status quo, priests serving churches on the fringes of a pagan society. They were possessed by a dream - the creation of a Sino-Christian civilization that would match the Roman-Christian civilization of the West.
This unique approach was largely the outworking of two Italian Jesuits,
Michele Ruggieri(1543-1607) and Matteo Ricci(1552-1610). Both were determined to adapt to the religious qualities of the Chinese: Ruggieri to the common people, in whom Buddhistand Taoistelements predominated, and Ricci to the educated classes, where Confucianismprevailed.
By (1610) more than two thousand Chinese from all levels of society had confessed their faith in
Clark has summarized as follows:
"When all is said and done, one must recognize gladly that the Jesuits made a shining contribution to mission outreach and policy in China. They made no fatal compromises, and where they skirted this in their guarded accommodation to the Chinese reverence for ancestors, their major thrust was both Christian and wise. They succeeded in rendering Christianity at least respectable and even credible to the sophisticated Chinese, no mean accomplishment." [George H. Dunne, "Generation of Giants", pp.86-88.]
The Jesuits succeeded in planting a Chinese church that has stood the test of time. "By 1844, Roman Catholics may have totalled 240,000; in 1901 the figure reached 720,490". [Kenneth Scott, "Christian Missions in China", p.83.] However, one should not overlook the fact that the Jesuit financial policy grievously aggravated the difficulties of that Church.Fact|date=December 2007 Their missionaries involved themselves in business ventures of various sorts; they became the landlords of income-producing properties, developed the silk industry for Western trade, and organized money-lending operations on a large scale. All these eventually generated misunderstanding and tension between the foreign community and the Chinese people. The Communists held this against them as late as the mid-twentieth century.Fact|date=December 2007
The Jesuits introduced Western science and astronomy, then undergoing its own revolution, to China. "Jesuits were accepted in late Ming court circles as foreign literati, regarded as impressive especially for their knowledge of astronomy, calendar-making, mathematics, hydraulics, and geography." [Patricia Buckley Ebrey, "The Cambridge Illustrated History of China". Cambridge, New York and Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-521-43519-6. p. 212.] This influence worked in both directions:
The Jesuits were very active in transmitting Chinese knowledge to Europe, such as translating
Confucius's works into European languages. Ricci had already started to report on the thoughts of Confucius, and Father Prospero Intorcetta published the life and works of Confucius in Latinin 1687. [John Parker, "Windows into China: the Jesuits and their books, 1580-1730". Boston: Trustees of the Public Library of the City of Boston, 1978. p.25. ISBN 0890730504] It is thought that such works had considerable importance on European thinkers of the period, particularly those who were interested by the integration of the system of morality of Confucius into Christianity. [John Parker, "Windows into China", p. 25.] [John Hobson, "The Eastern origins of Western Civilization", pp. 194-195. ISBN 0521547245]
Franciscan missions to the Maya
The Franciscan Missions to the Maya were the attempts of the
Franciscansto Christianizethe indigenous peopleof the new world, specifically the Maya. They began to take place soon after the discovery of the New Worldmade by Christopher Columbusin 1492, which opened the door for Catholic missions. As early as 1519 there are records of Franciscanactivity in the American continent, and throughout the early 16th Centurythe missionmovement spreads from the original contact point in the Caribbeanto include Mexico, Central America, parts of South America, and the Southwest United States. [Habig 1945:342]
The goal of the
Franciscanmissions was to spread the Christian faithto the “uncivilized” people of the New Worldthrough “word and example” [Clendinnen 1982] , but also, though not explicitly stated, oppression and castigation, specifically self-flagellation, also known as mortification of the flesh. Their attempts, however, resulted in much violence and cruelty.
Christianityto the newly discovered continent was a top priority, but only one piece of the Spanish colonization system. The influence of the Franciscans, considering that missionariesare sometimes seen as tools of imperialism, [Grahm 1998: 28] enabled other objectives to be reached, such as the extension of Spanish language, culture and political control to the New World. A goal was to change the agricultural or nomadic Indian into a model of the Spanish people and society. Basically, the aim was for urbanization. The missions achieved this by “offering gifts and persuasion…and safety from enemies.” This protection was also security for the Spanish military operation, since there would be theoretically less warring if the natives were pacified, thus working with another piece of the system. [Lee 1990:44]
Methods in the Yucatan
Franciscan influence in the Yucatan can be considered unique because they enjoyed sole access to the area; no other
religious orders, such as the Jesuitsor the Dominicanswere competing for the territory. [Clendinnen 1982:45] Essentially, this meant that there was no one to defy the goings-on of the Franciscansat this time. They were able to use whatever method they deemed necessary to spread their beliefs, although at the beginning they tried to follow the “conversion programme” that had already been used in Mexico. [Clendinnen 1982: 33]
Word and example
The original method of instruction of the ‘new faith’ to the
Mayawas very straightforward and simple. “Word and example” would be all they need to show these people the then-believed error of their ways and follow Christianity. [Clendinnen 1982: 29] An example of how the Franciscanscarried out this belief can be seen by the actions of Fray Martín de Valencia, one of the Twelve Apostles of Mexico. Upon arrival to his province, he kneeled before a group of assembled natives and began to speak publicly of his own sins [a form of confession] , and commenced to whip himself in front of all. Thus the ideal method of teaching was to avoid “direct exercise of power.” [Clendinnen 1982: 29]
Education of youth
Another means of conversion was the education of the
Mayan youth. Through the aforementioned conversion programme, “sons of the nobles were taken into monastery schools and there taught until they were judged sufficiently secure in the faith to be returned to their villages as Christian schoolmasters, where they were to lead their fellow villagers through simple routines of worship.” [Clendinnen 1982: 33] According to Fray Diego de Landain his book Relación de las cosas de Yucatán, this program was quite successful, and an “admirable thing to see.” [de Landa 1974: 74]
The early success through peaceful teaching and quiet example of the
Franciscanmissionaries, however, was short lived. Within the first few years it became apparent that verbal teaching would not be enough, as the Mayansremained overall unmoved of the lessons of Christianity. [Clendinnen 1982: 30] In 1539 the heads of the three religious orders operating in Mexico met with the Franciscanbishop Juan de Zumárragaand concluded that the friars of the missionaries could legally inflict “light punishment” on the Mayans. [Clendinnen 1982: 30] These moderate disciplines, however, soon turned into cases of physical abuseand excessive cruelty; it seems that once the friars found this method to be successful, there could be no turning back. This can be witnessed by the words of Vasco de Quiroga, a bishop of Michoacán: “ [the regular orders] are now inflicting many mistreatments upon the Indians, with great haughtiness and cruelty, for when the Indians do not obey them, they insult and strike them, tear out their hair, have them stripped and cruelly flogged, and then throw them into prison in chains and cruel irons.” [Clendinnen 1982: 31]
Cochua and Chetumal
Because of extreme cruelties inflicted upon the Mayan people of the provinces
Cochuaand Chetumal, a rebellion broke out. The violence includes several citizens burned alive in their homes, the hanging of women from branches, with their children then hanged from their feet, and another instance of hanging virgins simply for their beauty. [de Landa 1974: 60] While de Landa does not go into details of what the Mayansdid to the Spaniards, he certainly graphically explains the Spanish retribution: “the Spaniards pacified them… [by] cutting off noses, arms and legs, and the breasts of women; throwing them into deep lagoons with gourds tied to their feet; stabbing the little children because they did not walk as fast as their mothers.” [de Landa 1974: 61]
An additional rebellion was executed by the Indians of Valladolid. During this rebellion, which took place in 1546, many
Spaniardswere killed, as well as native converts loyal to their masters. Livestock from Spain was razed, and Spanish tress uprooted. [de Landa 1974: 64] The presence and activity of the Franciscansis believed to be the cause of this riot. In one day, seventeen Spaniards were killed, and some four hundred servants were either killed or wounded. [de Landa 1974: 64]
Killings of Friars
Another form of rebellion by the
Mayaand other indigenous groups against the Franciscanswas the murder of missionariesthemselves, often just two or three at a time, though in some instances many more. Described as martyrs, these men were picked off in twos or threes throughout the years of the missionary work all through Mexico. [ Habig 1945: 335-6, 338]
While the term ‘success’ is a delicate word to use, considering the mass injustices of not only the Mayan people, but most if not all other indigenous groups that came in contact with the
Spanish conquestin the sixteenth century, the conquests made by Spainwere successful in terms of global achievement. It is to be lamented that the ancient way of life, not to mention religion, was drastically changed forever, but also important to note that Spain did indeed accomplish an enormous feat: a religious power from a small country in Europethat governed and maintained control of a vast area of land for several centuries. In history there is no equal achievement. [Lee 1990: 42]
Catholic missions in California
The Spanish missions in California (more simply referred to as the California Missions) comprise a series of
religiousoutposts established by Spanish Catholicsof the FranciscanOrder between 1769 and 1823 to spread the Catholicfaith among the local Native Americans. The missions represented the first major effort by Europeans to colonize the Pacific Coastregion, and gave Spain a valuable toehold in the frontier land. The settlers introduced European livestock, fruits, vegetables, and industryinto the California region; however, the Spanish occupation of California also brought with it serious negative consequences to the Native American populations with whom the missionaries came in contact. Today, the missions are among the state's oldest structures and the most-visited historic monuments.
Much contemporary Catholic missionary work has undergone profound change since the
Second Vatican Council, and has become explicitly conscious of Social Justiceissues and the dangers of cultural imperialism or economic exploitation disguised as religious conversion. Contemporary Christian missionaries argue that working for justice is a constitutive part of preaching the Gospel, and observe the principles of Inculturationin their missionary work.
List of Roman Catholic missionaries
Gabriele Allegra, O.F.M.– Missionary to China to translate the Bible
Francisco Álvares– Portuguese missionary to Ethiopia.
José de Anchieta– Missionary in Brazil.
Alexis Bachelot– Missionary to Hawaii.
Alonzo de Barcena– Missionary and linguist.
Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo– Missionary in Mozambique.
Jean-Rémy Bessieux– Missionary to Gabon and its first bishop.
Luis de Bolaños– Missionary who started the Indian Reductionssystem in Paraguay.
Libert H. Boeynaems– Missionary to Hawaii.
Jean de Brébeuf– French Jesuit martyr in Canada who wrote Huron Carol.
Luis Cancer– Missionary in Central America.
Father Damien– Missionary to Hawaii known for working with the lepers.
Louis William Valentine Dubourg– Missionary to the USA.
Joseph Freinademetz– Nineteenth century canonized missionary to China.
René Goupil– French missionary to what is now Canada.
Évariste Régis Huc– French missionary in nineteenth century China.
Isaac Jogues– French missionary to what is now Canada.
John of Montecorvino– Franciscan missionary to China in Medieval times.
Jordanus– Dominican missionary to India.
Peter Richard Kenrick– Irish missionary to the USA.
Eusebio Kino– Missionary to what is now the US Southwest.
Fermín Lasuén– Founder of numerous missions in Baja California.
Jacques Marquette– Missionary and explorer.
Marcos de Niza– French Franciscan missionary who accompanied Francisco Vásquez de Coronado.
Roberto de Nobili– Jesuit missionary in India who learned Tamil and Sanskrit.
Odoric of Pordenone– Franciscan missionary to China in Medieval times.
Juan de Padilla– Franciscan who accompanied Coronado.
Alexander de Rhodes– French Jesuit important to the history of Christianity in Vietnam.Holy Ghost Fathers
Matteo Ricci– Jesuit missionary in China.
Junípero Serra– Founded the mission system of what is now the US state of California.
Mother Teresa– Missionary to India.
William of Rubruck– Franciscan missionary to the Mongols.
Alessandro Valignano– Italian Jesuit who supervised missions in the Far East, particularly Japan.
Francis Xavier– Jesuit missionary to India and Japan.
Catholicism in China
List of Roman Catholic missionaries in China
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