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BISHOPDr. YVON AMBROISE, TUTICORIN
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1. Introducing the Study1. Introducing the Study
• The arrival of St.Thomas to India around AD
50s marks the entry of Christianity nearly 1950
years back. He landed in the Malabar coast
and went about doing his work till the Eastern
coast and was buried in Chennai, the East
• Francis Xavier who came to India in the 15th
century, also started a new page in the
historical contribution to Indian life.
• This paper tries to show some landmark
contributions of the Catholic Church made to
the mainstream life of India from a Socio-
pastoral and sociological perspective.
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India: a huge mosaicIndia: a huge mosaic
• Today India is a nation with over one
billion people with different colours,
creeds, races ethnic groups languages
• This mosaic, called India, makes today
important contributions in several fields
• Though several see only the face of the
advanced number of personnel working in
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India in the World scenario of religionsIndia in the World scenario of religions
• Situating India in the World scenario of religions
we observe the following:
• India has given birth to four major religions of the
World: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
• Hindus form the majority, (82%) in India.
• Buddhism, that originated in India and flourished
till the 6th century A.D., was practically made to
quit India and it spread to several countries in
Asia, making itself a majority religion in Asian
countries. Today Buddhists form only 0.5% in
• Besides Muslims form 12% in the Indian
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Christians and Catholics: significant minorityChristians and Catholics: significant minority
• In spite of a long history of Christianity,
Christians form today only 2.5% of the
• and the Catholics only 1.5% of the total
population of India.
• In spite of this significantly tiny minority
character, the Catholic Church in India
made praiseworthy contributions to the
life and development of Indians.
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A sociopastoral and sociological analysisA sociopastoral and sociological analysis
• We present a global analysis from a
sociopastoral and a sociological
• Fields covered:
Hindu religious revival movements
Contribution to the secular polity of the
Offering of its personnel to the service of
The field of the empowerment of women.
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2. The Field of Education
• Though Christians and particularly Catholics
are a tiny minority
• The contribution in the field of education is not
only impressive but shows the importance the
Church has given to it in the Indian context.
• At the time of independence of India in 1947
only about 14% of the population were literate.
• If it has gone up to 55% of the population
today, Christianity can be proud in playing its
role in it.
• Some statistics will testify to it.
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From nursery schools to collegesFrom nursery schools to colleges
• “The Catholic Church in India runs over 17,000
• over 11,000 are Nursery, Primary and Middle
• There are also over 1500 professional and
• In the year 2000, Catholic colleges numbered
175 including 2 Engineering and 2 Medical
• What is impressive is that 70% of all these
schools are in rural areas, serving the poor,
especially the dalits, the adivasis and other
• Only a meager 15% of the Church institutions
are in the cities and large towns.” (1)
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Christian collegesChristian colleges
• “At the close of the 19th century, India had only
26 Christian Colleges.
• At the time of independence in 1947, the
number of Christian Colleges was 62 out of a
total of 450.
• In 2000 Christian Colleges numbered about 250
out of the 11,089 Colleges.
• They catered to a total of 135,200 students of
whom 28% were catholics.
• Nearly 50% of the Catholic Colleges are for
women only. 17% are for men only and 33% are
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Priority to women and to lower classesPriority to women and to lower classes
• The Church gave a major importance to the
education of women and can be proud of it
• This led to the enlightenment of Indian women
belonging to all religions, castes, tribes and different
regions in the modern India.
• The Church had also given its due attention to
technical education, and runs today 1514 technical
and vocational training institutions in the country.
• The historical contribution and breakthrough of the
achievement of the Church in the field of education
lies in the fact that it broke the monopoly of a singlebroke the monopoly of a single
privileged caste and decentralized andprivileged caste and decentralized and
democratized educationdemocratized education.
• This made it possible for dalits and tribals not only
to benefit by it but to have social mobility in life.
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Development and social change throughDevelopment and social change through
• Education of the masses in urban and
particularly in rural areas
• has been the backbone of the development of
India and for bringing about social changes.
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building in India
3. Contribution in Health Care
• Another significant field in our contribution for the
development of India is the healthcare system in India.
– Dispensaries = 2575
– Rehabilitation Centres = 70
– Centres for Mental health care = 107
– Medical facility for the disabled = 188
– Leprosaries = 165
– Health care centres for the Aged = 416
– T.B., Terminally ill-HIV/AIDS = 61
– Medical training Centres = 113
– Counseling Centre = 60
– Non-formal Health facility = 162
• Total = 4743
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building in India
• Option for the poor and reaching the un-reached: 85% of
the healthcare institutions run by the Church in India are
in remote villages. Most of these areas are totally or
partially deprived of adequate healthcare and other
infrastructures and services.
• Holistic health care is offered by including one’s
emotional and spiritual care of those who come to these
• Respect for life and regard for Christian ethical
principles is another distinguishing characteristic
Specific options in Health careSpecific options in Health care
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4. Contribution in the Field of
• Church has considered social services as a way
of demonstrating the compassion of Christ to
the Indian Society.
• Hence specific attention to the development of
the poor and downtrodden was given due
importance right from the beginning.
• In certain areas like the tribal belt the liberation
of the tribals from money-lenders and landlords
served as the first contribution of the Church.
• E.g Fr.S.Lievens, Fr.J.B.Hoffmann, etc.
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building in India
Relief organizations and servicesRelief organizations and services
• Example: Tsunami relief. Caritas India spent
150 million dollars
• There are Diocesan Social Service Societies in
all the 160 dioceses in India.
• Regional Societies like Don Bosco Reach Out
in the North-East India.
• Change of perspective: from relief and charity
to Institutional model of educational and health
• Focus on empowerment and self-reliance of the
poor to remake their future by a cooperative
and collective action for social transformation.
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Village grassroots organizationsVillage grassroots organizations
• Grassroots organizations of the poor and
the downtrodden in villages are
organized by the Church
• Offering them awareness education and
motivation to act collectively.
• There are today thousands of such
groups all over India
• Strategy: savings, income-generation
projects and collective actions to
liberate themselves from oppressive
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building in India
Negative and violent reactionsNegative and violent reactions
• Such actions have earned the anger of the
rich and vested interested groups
• who today plan through fundamentalist
groups to attack and eliminate the
presence of Christians.
• Known example: the atrocities taking place
in Orissa where no help is given to those
victims of such attack
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5. Hindu Religious Revival5. Hindu Religious Revival
• In the pre-independent period some religious
revival movements emerged
• As an outcome of the interplay of Socio-
economic, political and cultural forces
• effecting a cultural transaction between
Hinduism and Christian models of thought
• in a society in transition to answer to the
existential needs of the people.
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Example 1: Bramo Samaj (1823)Example 1: Bramo Samaj (1823)
• Founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy
• He assimilated several elements from the
Western and Christian models and
reformulated Hinduism by a new
reinterpretation of the Vedas.
• He introduced a belief in monotheism and
denied the caste-system and its ideology.
• Vehement opposition to child marriage and the
practice of Sati (burning the widow in the
funeral pyres of her husband).
• Encouraged the Western education system and
himself ran several schools.
• Global aim: revitalize Hinduism without any
feeling of antagonism towards other religions
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• Founded by Dayananda Saraswathi in 1875.
• He tried to reinterpret the Vedas to say that the
Vedas advocate monotheism and was against
• He rejected the caste-system and child-
marriage as having no basis in the Vedas.
• But: took a different turn than Raja Ram Mohan
• “Back to Vedas” was his battle-cry to Hindus.
He made it obligatory to read, teach, recite and
listen to the recitation of Vedas which he
interpreted in his way as said above.
• He gave an aggressive character to Hinduism
as well as a militant spirit to attack anyone who
would talk against Hinduism.
Example 2: Arya Samaj (1875)Example 2: Arya Samaj (1875)
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Example 3:Example 3: Ramakrishna MissionRamakrishna Mission
• Inspired by Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and organized byInspired by Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and organized by
Narendranath Datta, known as Swami VivekanandaNarendranath Datta, known as Swami Vivekananda
• It had clear overtones of Hindu-Christian culturalIt had clear overtones of Hindu-Christian cultural
• In Ramakrishna’s attitude towards different religions heIn Ramakrishna’s attitude towards different religions he
was both against the militant spirit of Arya Samaj and thewas both against the militant spirit of Arya Samaj and the
reformatory character of Brahmo Samaj.reformatory character of Brahmo Samaj.
• He had a basis in Hinduism with an ecumenical spirit,He had a basis in Hinduism with an ecumenical spirit,
showing the complementary character of all religions.showing the complementary character of all religions.
• Thus he would first break the sectarian spirit withinThus he would first break the sectarian spirit within
Hinduism by validating through his mystical experience theHinduism by validating through his mystical experience the
different sectarian Hindu gods and cultsdifferent sectarian Hindu gods and cults
• He tried to destroy the inter-religious rivalry by realizing aHe tried to destroy the inter-religious rivalry by realizing a
mystical experience of Mohammed and Jesus Christ.mystical experience of Mohammed and Jesus Christ.
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6. Contribution to the Secular
Polity of the Country
• The Christian community has made a significant contribution to
“secularism” in India
• In the constituent Assembly, the Christian community through
Fr.Jerome D’Souza renounced separate electorate
• expressed trust in the majority community to respect and treat
the minority community on a par with all as citizens of the
• That was an important contribution of the Christian community
to the secular nature of the Constitution of the Republic.
• For nation building the secular character and ethos of our polity
is essential to shape and forge harmony and peace for all
people of the country.
• The Church remains committed to secularity of the Constitution
of the Republic. Secular character of the Republic is a positive
force for peace and communal harmony in a multicultural and
multireligious society that India is
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building in India
7. The Religious personnel on the field
• Religious personnel working in different fields
of Socio-Pastoral involvement is another
contribution to the total services offered to
build up India
• Diocesan priests - nearly 9000
• Religious priests - nearly 15,000
• Religious Brothers - nearly 2,000
• Religious Sisters - nearly 77,000
• The majority of Religious Sisters and Brothers
serve in educational and healthcare
• A good number of priests also serve in such
institutions and social service societies in the
160 dioceses in India. Practically all of them
are professionally qualified and give a
professional contribution in the building up of
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8. Towards the Empowerment of Women8. Towards the Empowerment of Women
• The development of women in different aspects
is another specific contribution to the backbone
of Indian development.
• It starts from working for the abolition of girl
child feticide in the womb or outside by
upholding the ethical values and supporting
women to fight against such evil
• It continues by the education of the girl
children through the schools and through the
awareness given to women’s grassroots groups
to educate their girl children.
• Their higher education is also supported. One
must recall the fact that out of the 220 Catholic
Colleges in India 50% are meant only for
women and 33% are mixed ones.
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Participation of womenParticipation of women
• The awareness programmes and empowerment of
women by thousands of grassroots groups touch the
majority of the illiterate adult women.
• Asserting equal participation in Church participative
structures like Diocesan Pastoral Council, parish
• Educating women to demand equal representation
in decision-making in micro, semi-macro and macro
political structures cannot be ignored by a honest
observer as a sincere attempt of empowerment of
women both Catholics and others.
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9. To conclude: a leaven working in
• Next to the 6 fields mentioned above, there are
other fields: Indian
contribution to linguistic anthropology right from
16th century in several languages in India
contribution to ethnography and Tribal
anthropology and Dalit Anthropology
contribution to the formation of the youth
• Catholic Church can be compared to leaven working
in the mass of the Society with various degrees of
• Hence it is very often not seen outside.
• The Church also does not seek publicity as she
follows the principle of left hand not knowing what
the right hand does.
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1. Selvister Ponnumuthan (chief editor),
Christian Contribution to Nation building
Third Millenimum Enquiry”, Documentary
Committee of CBCI-KCBC National Celebration
of the Jubilee of St.Thomas and St.Francis
Xavier, Cochin, 2004, p.85
2. Ibidem p.88
3. Ibidem p.108
4. Ibidem pp 115 f
5. Yvon Ambroise, Hindu Religious Movements: A
Sociological Perspective, Journal of
Vol VII, No.4, 1982 pp. 358-373