Thursday November 23, 2006
Pope angers Kerala Xians
Kochi, Nov. 22: Controversy is raging in the Christian community in Kerala following recent remarks by Pope Benedict XVI that St. Thomas had preached Christianity in “western” India, from where it spread to other parts of the country, fuelling a debate whether or not the apostle had come to southern India.
The community in Kerala believes that St. Thomas came to this part of the country in A.D. 52 and had established seven churches. The community considers St. Thomas as the “Father in Faith” of Christians in India. The present Pope had in a recent pronouncement at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican spoken of St. Thomas the Apostle, seemingly taking away from him the traditional title of “Apostle of India”.
Though the Pope did not actually use the expression “apostle of Pakistan”, what he said might seem to imply it, says an article by George Nedungatt, a faculty member of the Oriental Pontifical Institute, Rome, in Satya Deepam, a mouthpiece of the Syro-Malabar church.
The article says the Pope’s predecessors had on several occasions referred to St. Thomas as the “Apostle of India”. However, differing from this view, Pope Benedict feels the area St. Thomas evangelised was not South India, but what he called “western India”, corresponding roughly to today’s Pakistan, says the article. The Pope, addressing a vast crowd at St. Peter’s Square, had said: “ ... Thomas first evangelised Syria and Persia and then penetrated as far as western India, from where Christianity reached also South India”.
According to the Pope, while northwestern India was evangelised by St. Thomas, South India was not evangelised by him. He does not specify who first preached the Gospel in South India: whether some disciple or disciples of the Apostle himself or others in the post-apostolic age or later, the article says.