The evangelising mission of the Church in India in the
pluralistic context of different religions faces conflicts and challenges. The
religions are often strongly convinced of the uniqueness of their own faith.
Sometimes this conviction leads to the extreme form of religious fundamentalism
which hatches animosities among religions enough to threaten the very unity of
Hinduism is very critical of Christianity’s mission calling for
conversion and some State Governments are trying to thwart conversions through
Naturally baptism is the first object of attack and is viewed as the mechanism
for imposing western culture to root out the native Hindu, Indian culture.
In this context the doubt may come whether the Church’s mission work in India
gives rise to conflicts among the people of
In that case baptism will appear as a counter sign of the Christian principle of
unity and love.
My attempt here is to emphasize the necessity of Baptism in the
context of the strong opposition from the part of Hinduism to the Christian
mission and conversion.
Hindu Culture with the Religion
European Culture with Christianity
The perception of the culture of the majority as the Indian
national culture is only one of the rationales behind Hindu opposition to any
conversion from Hinduism leading to Christian initiation i.e., baptism. Though
Christianity in India is of some 2000 years old often some Hindus are
identifying European or Western culture with Christianity and are considering
Christianity as foreign religion in India.
The allegation that Christian faith is purely European is not
The experiences of the aggressive mission practised
by some missionaries in the past backed by the
give room for the suspicion that Christian mission
in India is still indirectly exercising colonialism.
Some thoroughly westernised life styles of the Christians in some parts of India
make the Hindus to turn their suspicion into paranoid conviction:
Baptism is the medium to reject Indian culture, to embrace foreign culture and
thus to destroy systematically the culture of the land,
leading to denationalization if not to anti-nationalism.
Gandhi was against conversion. He considered conversion as
Even though he himself was greatly influenced by Christianity, especially by the
ethics of Jesus, he strongly objected to 'proselytism', 'the conversion' and to
what he regarded as the denationalisation. He said: "Every nation considers its
own faith to be as good as that of any other. Certainly the great faiths held by
the people of India are adequate for her people. India stands in no need of
conversion from one faith to another."
The suspicion that baptism is an agent to alienate the Hindus
from their cultural heritage vindicates the fact that still a large number of
Hindus consider Christianity as a religion of the western culture. Most of the
Hindus may be even ready to accept Jesus as their favourite Deity. But from the
moment the necessity of baptism and thus joining the Church is stressed, things
take a different turn. According to some Hindus baptism is not merely a
religious rite, it has social and political implications.
Through baptism a Hindu is leaving his community
and is embracing a different culture and even a new national identity.
Thus leaving the Hindu fold and becoming a member of another religion is a
betrayal of the nation.
No wonder the converts are often expelled from the
Hindu community and are completely ostracised by the whole Hindu society. They
are even rejected by their own parents, relatives, friends and the village
Extreme forms of antagonism towards conversion can be seen in the activities of
RSS with their threats against the missionaries and also against the converts.
Jesus Christ and Christianity are evoking positive waves among a
large number of Hindus. There are different grades of positive responses:
They are prepared to accept Jesus Christ even as God. However, they do not
accept him as the only Saviour. For them, the Hindu gods and Christ
are only the different manifestations of the same God.
They are ready to accept the moral teachings of Jesus. But they are not
committed to him.
Examples are Rammohan Roy and Mahatma Gandhi.
ii. They believe in Christ as God. But they do not see the necessity to embrace
the Christian religion, much less the Church.
In some instances they preach Christ and exercise a healing- ministry.
They have „response and commitment to Christ, and Christ alone, within the
context of Hinduism itself, but with either indifference to or a total rejection
of the Church”,
for example, Kalagora Subba Rao.
A survey shows that in the Chennai (former Madras) city there are about 200,000
‘non-baptized believing Christians‘.
iii. There are others who believe that Jesus is the only saviour and even
recognise the need to embrace the Christian religion. But they do not find it
necessary to undergo baptism in order to embrace Christian religion. They cannot
give a positive answer to the question “Is it
for those who acknowledge 'Christ is Lord' always to be baptized in order to be
recognized as our fellow followers of Christ?”
iv. They believe in the necessity of baptism but hesitate to undergo baptism
because of the fear that by undergoing baptism they will be losing their
parental culture and heritage. This fear is not a past reality
but also a present one.
Often they live as ‘Secret Christian’.
The converts will be rejected by their parents, relatives, friends and
In all these positive responses some common denominators can be
identified. They all stop short of baptism. This is motivated by the internal
conviction or coercive conviction: Hindu religion and culture are identical and
that by undergoing Christian initiation one will lose one’s Hindu cultural
early St. Thomas Christians lived their faith in their Hindu cultural identity,
a convert from Hinduism, basing on some of the
principles of Hinduism itself, tried to give a theoretical explanation for the
intercultural style of life. He found, in Hindu Dharma (religion) or
rather the Sanadanadharma, two inherent factors: Samaj dharma
(social obligation) and Sadhan dharma (religious faith).
According to him the social and cultural factors of Hinduism are fundamentally
rooted in the Hindus by birth. On the other hand the religious faith is left to
the individual freedom. A Hindu can belong to any religion.
Thus he claimed that he was culturally a Hindu, while a Christian in faith.
According to him the Indian Christians converted from Hinduism are Hindus by
birth so far as their physical and mental constitution is concerned. And they
will remain Hindus till death.
But in regard to their immortal souls they are Christians. As dvija
(twice-born) by virtue of their sacramental rebirth, they are Christians: “By
birth we are Hindu and shall remain Hindu till death. But as dvija
(twice-born) by virtue of our sacramental rebirth, we are Catholic; . . .”
are Hindu Catholics.” Upadhyaya claimed. ”The test of being Hindu can not
therefore lie in religious opinions".
considered Hinduism as one of the many cultures in the world. On the other hand
he considered the Christian faith as universal. It transcends all the cultural
boundaries. He said: "In customs and manners, in observing caste and social
distinctions, in eating and drinking, in our life and living we are genuine
Hindus; but in our faith we are neither Hindu nor European, nor American nor
Chinese, but all-inclusive. Our faith fills the whole world and is not confined
to any country or race, our faith is universal and consequently includes all
St. Paul identified the universality of the
Christian faith transcending any particular culture, when he was speaking about
baptism: ”For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is
neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:27-29).
Similarly II Vatican Council states: ”...the church,...is not bound exclusively
and indissolubly to any race or nation, any particular way of life or any
customary way of life, ancient or recent” (GS 58).
In Evangelii Nuntiandi the Gospel and therefore the evangelization is not
identical with culture: “The Gospel, and therefore evangelization, are certainly
not identical with culture, and they are independent in regard to all cultures.
. . . Though independent of cultures, the Gospel and evangelization are not
necessarily incompatible with them; rather they are capable of permeating them
all without becoming subject to any one of them.” (Paul VI, EN 20)
Upadyaya’s insight of dividing culture and religion encourages us to
examine the implications. One is born into a social, cultural and even into a
religious milieu. By birth one can inherit almost everything from one’s parents:
physiological, psychological, social, cultural aspects. Even though one is born
into a religious milieu one cannot inherit by birth the parental religion.
Religion or the faith element in a religion transcends the social, cultural even
national identity. There is an important factor in the religion which demands
the individual’s decision. When the parental religious faith encounters an
individual, it demands conversion or decision from the part of the individual
with his freedom. In the initiation it is precisely this that is taking place.
There the religious faith of the community, in the symbolic form, encounters the
individual demanding an answer of conversion. The individual of its own free
will answers symbolically to the demands or invitation. These two factors are
joined symbolically in the initiation. Even though religion is very intimately
united with the social and cultural milieu,
religion qua religion is deeply rooted in the personal act of the individual
with his free choice as regards the acceptance of the invitation to the
religious faith extended by the community.
In the initiation both the individual and the community have a great
role. The faith encounters the individual through the community, i.e. through
the religious symbols. And the individual answers to the invitation by accepting
the communitarian symbols.
seen that a Hindu is born a Hindu and that birth is the initiation ceremony.
Still in a sense one can say that there is an initiation ceremony which may be
practically effecting a Hindu’s entrance into Hindu religion. It is the
It is an initiation ceremony by which a Brahmin (or even a Kshatria, a
Vaišya) is initiated into reading Vedas and offering household sacrifices.
It is remarkable to note that by this ceremony one is dvija, twice born.
It is a second birth, a second initiation. In that case one is religiously a
Hindu not only by birth from the Hindu parents but by upanayana
(initiation, second birth, dvija). In the first birth one is culturally a
Hindu. In the second birth one is religiously a Hindu.
It seems that Hinduism is insisting that one must be culturally a Hindu in order
that one may be religiously a Hindu. For example the initiation upanayana
is only allowed to the Higher caste Hindus, such as Brahmanas,
Kshatrias and Vaišias.
Not even all those who are culturally Hindus will be allowed to undergo
upanayana, for example the lower caste Hindus, Sudras.
The outcastes are not at all entitled to the initiation.
8. One is born to a Culture but one chooses one’s religion
being born into the social, cultural and even into a religious milieu has to
grow not only by his determinative or ‘givenness’ factors, but also by his
self-determinative factor, which is exercised by his freedom. He has to exercise
his freedom in the social and cultural contexts. But his supreme exercise of
freedom will be his choosing his religious faith. In one’s life there is
the passive reception of the cultural milieu and the active reception of one’s
religion through conversion leading to initiation. The dynamism of the passive
reception of the cultural milieu and active reception of the religion can be
illustrated by Ambedkar’s
courageous leadership in the conversion and initiation of himself and thousands
of Dalits into Buddhism.
already seen that the lower castes, Sudras and the outcasts, Dalits,
are denied the initiation, upanayana. Dalits are culturally and
religiously not Hindus. Even though Sudras are born into the Hindu
Culture, their situation is not different from the Dalits born into the
Dalit culture. Both Sudras and Dalits were denied
initiation into the Hindu religion and for that matter into any religion.
They were slaves of the higher caste Hindus without having any freedom let alone
They were often treated worse than animals.
wanted to liberate Dalits from their slavery and to assert the religious
freedom of Dalits. He found that even though a Dalit is born into
the Dalit culture within the wider framework of the Hindu culture, he is
free to choose his religion. He declared "I had the misfortune to be born with
the stigma of 'untouchable'. But it is not my fault, but I will not die a Hindu
for this is within my power".
For the convenience of keeping the Dalits as their slaves Hindus enlist
the Dalits as ‘Hindus’.
But Ambedkar once again asserted that "the question whether we belong to Hindu
religion or not is to be decided by us once for all”.
Ambedkar together with thousands of other Dalits resolved to
leave Hinduism and to accept any religion that treats all the members of the
They preferred Buddhism as it was a moral religion, a rational religion, a
religion of equality, a respected religion, a religion of Indian Origin.
Ambedkar together with 50,000 to 500,000 was initiated to Buddhism on the 2500th
anniversary of the Buddha's enlightenment, on
Oct. 14, 1956.
Thus by being initiated into Buddhism the Dalits chose their religion, a
basic human right which had been denied them from time immemorial.
9. Baptism in the Mission context of India
Discussions are there in India on whether the Church must insist on
baptism in the present day mission context of
The question is not whether there must be an inculturation for the ceremony of
baptism (which, after the II Vatican council,
is a foregone conclusion), but whether there is any relevance for Baptism at
divisive multireligious context of India some Indian theologians doubt the
necessity of baptism stressing the fact that the inner core of Jesus’ message is
love and not division. ”If the ultimate meaning of ecclesiality is love,
communion and fellowship – as envisioned by Jesus – then, the rite of Christian
baptism, in the view of several Indian theologians, could become sometimes a
hindrance to this ideal in as much as it could separate the Christians from the
larger community of people”.
Others argue against baptism drawing attention to the inner reality of baptism
as the participation in the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection and thereby
entering into the Kingdom of God which transcends the ritual and institutional
baptism. Puthanangady writes: ”Formerly baptism automatically implied alienation
from one’s community; today we would like to describe its meaning as a
celebration of one’s conversion from individualism to sharing with others on the
model of Jesus, from bondage to self to commitment to the Kingdom of God, where
freedom, fellowship, justice and responsible love reign, where we work with
others for a truly human society for all”.
the principle of communion yet others seemingly argue for the replacement of the
sacrament of baptism (often viewing it as a sacrament of division) with the
Eucharist (seeing it as a sacrament of communion). In a society where people are
often divided because of their religions and castes, the basic need will be for
building up fellowship and communion among the different faiths. In this context
the stress can be on bringing people to the Eucharistic communion, rather than
giving baptism and separating them from their culture. ”In such situations of
communion in day-to-day life, people of other religious traditions show great
desire in participating in the Eucharist where they are able to experience with
Christians the community of love and fellowship of the Kingdom Jesus envisioned.
Baptism on the other hand is often viewed as a ritual hindering wider communion
and community. Hence it is being asked whether in India the Eucharist could be
the first Christian sacrament that can more easily lead the Christians into
universal communion with the neighbours of other faiths”.
also another vision of baptism. It is in the background of India’s abject
poverty and divisive and oppressive caste systems. Here baptism is identified
with the selfless service to the people. The foundation of the Christian
community is the selfless service to humanity after the model of Jesus Christ
who washed the feet of his disciples. Therefore ”whoever is unwilling to wash
the feet of others cannot become a disciple of Jesus. For washing the feet is
the baptism through which one becomes a disciple of Jesus, it is the card which
certifies one’s Christian identity”.
also a call for the development of the theology of the baptism of desire. It is
in view of those Hindus who hesitate to receive baptism not because of the lack
of internal conviction but because of the external threats and social pressure.
Bishop Valerian D’Souza claims: ”We need a deeper theological and pastoral study
of this baptism of desire and its relationship with the visible Church. ...The
Church has to discover ways of dealing with these believers in Jesus Christ, on
the one hand, to understand their social, cultural, economic and family
difficulties and, on the other hand, to lead them to full communion with Christ
and his Church”.
10. Initiation Necessary for Belonging to any Religion
As mentioned earlier when Ambedkar and thousands of Dalits
converted to Buddhism they were not content with merely adhering to the
principles of the Buddha. But they opted themselves to be initiated to Buddhism.
This also shows that an internal conversion and consent to an abstract faith are
not enough to enter into any religious community.
For the continuation of the single economy of salvation for the whole humanity
Jesus Christ instituted the universal sacrament, the Church and entrusted His
mission to her (Cf. RM, 1).
“Rising from the dead (Rom 6:9) He sent His
life-giving Spirit upon His disciples and through Him has established His Body
which is the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation”
cf. also GS 45,
Jesus Christ instituted the universal sacrament, the Church
as necessary for salvation. The Church is the salvific mystery because Jesus
Christ “ himself is in the Church and the Church is in him (cf. Jn 15:1ff.; Gal
3:28; Eph 4:15-16; Acts 9:5).”
(Dominus Iesus 16).
Once again it is
the Lord Jesus Christ, the source of salvation of all mankind, is present in the
Church that the Church is necessary for salvation (RM 9).
The “Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation” (LG
Christ also instituted
the seven sacraments
Council of Trent (1547) DS 1600-1601, cf. also CCC 1114, 1117)
including the only door to the universal Sacrament, the Baptism (cf. Mt. 28:
Jesus as the Saviour by participating in his death and resurrection (Cf. Rom.
6:3ff., 6:1-12; Eph. 2:5-6, 11-13; Col. 2:11-14; 3:1ff; 2 Tim 2:11; LG 7;
CCC 537, 985, 1227, 1258)
and thereby entering into the believing community (cf. LG 11;
CCC 804, 1185)
is not in an abstract or theoretical form but is in the actual life.
The radical nature of baptism: the participation in the suffering and death of
Jesus Christ is very strongly expressed by the “Baptism of blood”:
Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the
sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death
for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings
about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.”
baptism one enters into a new form of communitarian life based on the
Trinitarian community of love. One’s entrance into such a communitarian life is
enacted through the sacrament of baptism (Cf. LG 31, 64;
cf. PO 5;
CCC 265, 2156).
II Vatican Council states that Jesus Christ Himself “affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk
16:16; Jn 3:5) and
thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as
through a door men enter the Church.” (LG 14;
cf. also AG 7;
Dominus Iesus 20).
Faithful to Her Lord’s command the Church teaches: “Baptism is
necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who
have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament (Cf. Mk 16:16.)” (CCC
1257, cf. also 1277).
And the Church takes care not to neglect the mission that she has received from
Her Lord to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them as the Church
“does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal
beatitude. . . ” (CCC 1257).
14. Duty to
proclaim joyfully the received divine gift of baptism
Baptism is not a right that a Christian has acquired by his/her
sheer merit but a gift freely received from the Lord Jesus Christ who in His
bounty is offering it to all peoples and nations as they are all called for
immortal life by sharing in the loving communion of the Holy Trinity. It will be
an utter selfishness from the part of a Christian if he is not expressing openly
that others should also receive the gift which he himself has received with
gratitude and with great delight. Every Christian has a duty and responsibility
to joyfully proclaim the received gift of baptism so that others may also come
to know this great gift from Jesus Christ through His Church. The Church teaches
that Christians should not merely content themselves with the reception of
baptism. They have also the duty to confess publicly their baptismal faith:
“Those who belong to Christ through faith and Baptism must confess their
baptismal faith before men” (CCC 14).
the profession of faith of the Church the believer declares again and again “one
baptism for the forgiveness of sins”.
Responsibility to Proclaim the Full Truth Includes Baptism
The Church is greatly concerned about religious freedom and
dignity of human being. And that is why she has the duty of speaking out the
truth of the commission she has received from her Lord: “Thus He spoke to the
Apostles: ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to
observe all things whatsoever I have enjoined upon you’ (Mt. 28: 19-20). On
their part, all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God
and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to
it.” (DH 1).
And while speaking about inter-religious dialogue
the declaration Dominus Iesus states
that in the inter-religious dialogue context
Indeed, the Church, is guided by charity and respect for freedom, but at
the same time She “must be primarily committed to proclaiming to all people the
truth definitively revealed by the Lord, and to announcing the necessity of
conversion to Jesus Christ and of adherence to the Church through Baptism and
the other sacraments, in order to participate fully in communion with God, the
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus, the certainty of the universal salvific will
of God does not diminish, but rather increases the duty and urgency of the
proclamation of salvation and of conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
(Dominus Iesus, 22).
16. Conversion sealed by Baptism
accepting new members all societies and social institutions insist on the
performance of some form of symbolic initiation. A member who, for whatever
reason, hesitates to undergo the ceremony will not be transformed by the truths,
the principles and the communitarian influence of the society. In spite of its
origin from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Church is not merely a super terrestrial
society, completely and utterly independent of the world. The Church is also in
the world and for the world. Church, a constitutive element of society, is in
history and in the human society.
There is a communitarian dimension for the Christian faith in the Church.
Vatican council insists on the reception of baptism.
Even though the Council recognizes the presence of Jesus Christ and the
operation of the grace of his Spirit in other religions in an unseen way (GS 22,
cf. also LG 16;
Cf. also AG 7)
the council stresses that an individual’s belief in Christ and in the Church has
to be sealed by the reception of baptism: “Therefore those men cannot be saved,
who though aware that God, through Jesus Christ founded the Church as something
necessary, still do not wish to enter into it, or to persevere in it.”(LG 14, 24;
John Paul II, RM, 9;
cf. CCC 846-847.
Dominus Iesus 20).
The above statement is not, of course, directed to those people who are living
according to the dictate of their conscience and at the same time are not in
position to receive baptism because of no fault of their own. (cf. LG 16).
Pope Benedict XVI reiterated this conviction: Zenit reports: “Whoever
seeks peace and the good of the community with a pure conscience, and keeps
alive the desire for the transcendent, will be saved even if he lacks biblical
faith, says Benedict XVI.”
17. Necessity of
Preaching Christ, Conversion Leading to Baptism
Addressing the Asian Bishops John Paul II noted that they had to
gladly acknowledge: “whatever is true and holy in the religious traditions of
Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam as a reflection of that truth which enlightens all
people. . . ” (RM 55).
At the same time the Pope stresses the necessity preaching Christ leading to
conversion and to the reception of baptism. The Pope reminded the Bishops of
their duty and resolve “to proclaim without fail Jesus Christ who is 'the way,
and the truth and the life.'...The fact that the followers of other religions
can receive God's grace and be saved by Christ apart from the ordinary means
which he has established does not thereby cancel the call to faith and baptism
which God wills for all people." (RM 55)
Relation of Conversion and Baptism
John Paul II perceiving the danger of, especially among those who
are in the context of mission, separating conversion and Baptism, clarifies that
the reception of baptism followed by conversion is willed not only by the Church
but also primarily by Jesus Christ himself: “Conversion to Christ is joined to
Baptism not only because of the Church's practice, but also by the will of
Christ himself, who sent the apostles to make disciples of all nations and to
baptize them (cf. Mt 28:19). Conversion is also joined to Baptism because of the
intrinsic need to receive the fullness of new life in Christ. As Jesus says to
Nicodemus: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the
Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God“ (Jn 3:5). In Baptism, in fact, we
are born anew to the life of God's children, united to Jesus Christ and anointed
in the Holy Spirit. Baptism is not simply a seal of conversion, and a kind of
external sign indicating conversion and attesting to it. Rather, it is the
sacrament which signifies and effects rebirth from the Spirit, establishes real
and unbreakable bonds with the Blessed Trinity, and makes us members of the Body
of Christ, which is the Church.” (RM 47, cf. also 48).
is a complex concept; it includes several components. It takes for granted
several elements as existing in Indian and Hindu culture and absolutises
them. His very words and explanations testify to this fact.” Mattam,
J. And Arokiadoss (Edt.) Hindutva: An Indian Christian Response.
Bangalore: Dharmaram Publications, 2002. p. 17.
“It is not
altogether surprising, therefore, to find that conversion and baptism are
misunderstood and regarded with suspicion by some followers of other faiths
who may see them as a rejection of Indian culture and even as a political
threat.” Mattam, Joseph and Sebastian Kim, Edt.
Mission and Conversion: A Reappraisal,
Mumbai: St. Paul’s Publication, 1996, pp. 7-8.
Cf. S. Doraisawmy,
Christianity in India: Unique and Universal Mission, Madras: CLS, 1986, pp.
”Our dharma [religion or duty] has two branches: samaj dharma
[social obligation] and sadhan dharma [religious life...”
Animananda, The Blade:..,p. 200; quoted in R. BOYD, An
Introduction to Indian Christian Theology. Madras: The Christian
Literature Society, (1969) 1979, p. 69.
Cf. also P.Turmes, "Samaj Dharm and Sadhan Darm" in
The Clergy Monthly Supplement,
1962-3, pp. 330-4; and H. Staffner,
"May a convert retain his spiritual identity?" in Vidyajyoti
Ambedkar had to wage war against Hinduism, to get the untouchables out of
the clutches of the Hindu yoke of bonded slavery, treacherous dealings in
all matters, using the untouchables as their cheap farm labourers and
coolies.” S. Doraisawmy, Christianity in
India: Unique and Universal Mission,
Madras: CLS, 1986, p. 89.
Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission , (3rd Ed.: Bombay, 1971), pp 440, 454,
as given by John C.B. Webster, The Dalit Christians: A History,
Delhi: ISPCK. 1994, p. 156.
"I embrace today the Buddha Dhamma discarding the Hindu religion which is
detrimental to the emancipation of human beings and which believes in
inequality and regards human beings other than Brahmins as low born."
Dharma Deeksha, New Delhi, n.d.; quoted in John C.B. Webster, The
Dalit Christians: A History, Delhi: ISPCK. 1994, p. 157.
Concilium gives directives for the cultural
adaptation in the Liturgy and says that ”it shall be for competent
territorial ecclesiastical authority.., to specify adaptations, especially
in the case of the administrations of the sacraments, the sacramentals,
processions, liturgical language, sacred music, and the arts, but according
to the fundamental norms laid down in this constitution.” II Vatican
Council, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium 39. The Instrumentum
Laboris for the Asian Synod stresses the need for the inculturation of
the sacraments and sacramentals in the Asian context. ”In this
regard,..greater attention be given to the inculturation of the faith, so
as to search for ways among Asian mentalities and cultures – while remaining
faithful to the essential content of the faith – to express more clearly and
effectively what it means to live in Christ” (30). „Instrumentum Laboris:
Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops,, in L´Osservatore
Romano (English Ed.), 25 Feb. 1998,p. VI. For the need of inculturation
of the message of Christ, refer II Vatican Council, Constitution Gaudium
et Spes 53. Pope Paul VI, at the Eucharistic Congress in Bombay in
1964, exhorted Christians ”to express their faith and devotion in harmony
with the civilization of India and in truly Indian forms.” Pope Paul VI, ”To
the People of India,” Bombay, December 4, 1964; quoted in F. Gioia, (edt.),
Interreligious Dialogue: The Official Teaching of the Catholic Church
(1963-1995), USA: Pauline Books & Media, 1997, p. 128 § 203.
F. Wilfred, Beyond Settled
Foundations, Madras: University of Madras, 1993, p. 202.
Kaj Baago argued that
"Baptism in its present form, would have to be given up for the sake of the
Gospel, since it is a denial of the universality of Christ" quoted by
Mattam, Joseph, “Indian
Attempts towards a Solution to the Problems of Conversion.”
In Mattam, Joseph and Sebastian Kim, Edt.
Mission and Conversion: A Reappraisal, Mumbai:
St. Paul’s Publication, 1996, p. 115. Bernard Lucas is also another
proponent of ‘no baptism’,
and he argues that "Baptism has no place in the propagation of the Gospel
and that caste is no hindrance to Christianization"
quoted by Mattam,
Joseph, “Indian Attempts towards a Solution to the Problems of Conversion.”
In Mattam, Joseph and Sebastian Kim, Edt.
Mission and Conversion: A Reappraisal, Mumbai:
St. Paul’s Publication, 1996, p. 116.
Paul Puthanangady (ed.), Sharing
Worship – Communicatio in Sacris, (Final Statement of the Seminar),
Bangalore: NBCLC, 1988, pp. 794-795; quoted in F. Wilfred, Beyond
Settled Foundations, Madras: University of Madras, 1993, p. 202.
F. Wilfred, Beyond Settled
Foundations, Madras: University of Madras, 1993, p. 202. Wilfred refers
to Sara Grant, ”Towards a Practical Indian Ecclesiology,” Vidyajyoti,
49, (1985), pp. 29-36.
F.X. D’Sa, ”The Dharma of Religion:
Towards an Indian Theology of Religion,” in Kurian Kunnumpuram and Lorenzo
Fernando, Quest for an Indian Church: An Exploration of the possibilities
Opened up by Vatican II, Gujarath: Sahitya Prakash, 1992, pp. 91, 93.
D’Souza, Valerian. ”Obstacles that
stand in the way of Baptism in India,” in “Special Assembly for Asia of the
Synod of Bishops,” (19th April-14 May, 1998, in L´Osservatore Romano
(weekly Ed. English), 6 May 1998, p. 6 cl. 2.
”. . . the rites of the sacraments,
devotions, prayers, etc. also reveal, in their own way, the person of
Christ, making his saving message known and providing a powerful invitation
to the unbeliever towards participation.”(30). „Instrumentum Laboris:
Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops,, in L´Osservatore
Romano(English Ed.), 25 Feb. 1998, p. VI.
“The expository language of the Declaration corresponds to its purpose,
which is not to treat in a systematic manner the question of the unicity and
salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ and the Church, . . .”
Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration "Dominus
Iesus" 3. “As a
consequence, it is held that certain truths have been superseded; for
example, . . the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus
Christ, the universal salvific mediation of the Church, the inseparability —
while recognizing the distinction — of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of
Christ, and the Church, and the subsistence of the one Church of Christ in
the Catholic Church. . . . .
. . . .
On the basis of such presuppositions, which may evince different nuances,
certain theological proposals are developed . . . in which Christian
revelation and the mystery of Jesus Christ and the Church lose their
character of absolute truth and salvific universality, . . .” Sacred
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration "Dominus Iesus"
II Vatican Counci, Dogmatic Constitution Dei verbum, 2.
”Acknowledging Jesus as Saviour involves not simply confession of sin but a
change of heart, that is, accepting Jesus Christ as Lord of one’s life in an
ongoing process of conversion” (26). „Instrumentum Laboris: Special Assembly
for Asia of the Synod of Bishops,, in L´Osservatore Romano(English
Ed.), 25 Feb. 1998,p. VI.
“In so far as
Jesus referred to his death as a baptism, we could also speak of a baptism
by blood.” Kavunkal, Jacob. “Baptism in the New Testament,” in Mattam,
Joseph and Sebastian Kim, Edt. Mission and
Conversion: A Reappraisal, Mumbai: St. Paul’s
Publication, 1996, p. 69.
Council, Declaration Dignitatis Humanae
Mundadan, Mathias. ”The Church of the Third Millennium,” Third Millennium,
1 (1998) 1, (pp. 6-18), p. 10.
”Der Glaube ist ja
nicht ein Privatweg zu Gott; er führt in das Volk Gottes und in seine
Geschichte hinein. Gott hat sich selbst an eine Geschichte gebunden, die
nun auch die seinige ist und die wir nicht abstreifen können.” J. Ratzinger,
”Der Christliche Glaube vor der Herausforderung der Kulturen,” in Pauls
Gordan (Hrsg.) Evangelium und Inkuturation
(1492-1992), Köln: Verlag Styria, 1993, p. 20.
upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now
sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present
to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique
way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of
faith and baptism (Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5) and thereby affirmed also the necessity
of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church.
Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by
Christ would refuse to enter it or to remain in it, could not be saved.” (II
Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium 14, II Vatican
Council, Decree Ad Gentes 7 ).
As a consequence
there are a lot of attempts in the Catholic Church in India to present Jesus
in the Indian garb using the support of various philosophical and cultural
concepts of Hinduism and Buddhism. Instrumentum Laboris for the Asian
Synod recognises these attempts (30).
„Instrumentum Laboris: Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of
Bishops,, in L´Osservatore Romano(English Ed.), 25 Feb. 1998, p. VI.
II Vatican Council, Constitution Gaudium et Spes
53, cf. also Vatican Council, Decree Ad Gentes.,
II Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate.
J.B. ”Indian Culture and the Christian Civilization,” in Kanichikattil,
Francis. Church in Context: Essays in honour of Mathias Mundadan CMI,
Bangalore: Dharmaram Publications, 1996, (pp. 139-152) p. 149.
For a draft for
an inculturated form of baptism in India cf. Anand, Suhbah.
”Khrista-Upanayana (baptism),” Word and Worship 22 (1989) 7, 273-275.
For the presentation of an Indian rite for baptism as a contribution towards
inculturation cf. Chinnappa, S. ”Rite for an infant baptism,” Word and
Worship 22 (1989), 4, pp. 158-160. For baptism in the context of
Diksa in Saiva Diddhanta cf. Arulsamy, S. ”Diksa in Saiva
Diddhanta,” Indian Theological Studies 16 (1979), 1 & 2, pp. 55-70.
Hindus believe that “the sacramental rites (Samskaras) are
vehicles of sanctification.” Upadhyaya,
B. "Are We Hindus,” Sophia (Jan. 1898), in Lipner, J., and
Gispert-Sauch, ed. Brahmabandhab Upadhayay, 1991.
(Vol. 1), p. 25.
Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi
When Abraham was
asked by Yahweh to go out from his land, from his relatives and the house of
his father, Abraham faced with the cultural crisis. ”Ein solcher Bruch mit
der eigenen Vorgeschichte, ein solches Ausziehen wird immer am Beginn einer
neuen Stunde der Glaubensgeschichte stehen.” (p. 19)
”Wer in die Kirche eintritt, muß sich bewußt sein, daß er in ein eigenes
Kultursubjekt mit einer eigenen historisch gewachsene und vielfältig
geschichteten Interkulturalität eintritt. Ohne einen gewissen Exodus, einen
Umbruch des Lebens in all seinen Bezügen kann man nicht Christ werden.” J.
Ratzinger, ”Der Christliche Glaube vor der Herausforderung der Kulturen,” in
Pauls Gordan (Hrsg.) Evangelium und
Inkuturation (1492-1992), Köln: Verlag Styria,
1993,pp. 19, 20. Cf. also Karotemprel, Sebastian. ”Christian mission and
cultural formation amid the conflicts of cultures,” Indian Missiological
Review 7 (1985) 3, pp, 267-278.
A prayer by
Francis Xavier: "You, my God, have made me to your likeness, and not the
pagodas idols, which are the gods of the heathen in the form of
irrational cattle and beasts of the devil. I renounce all pagodas,
magicians, and soothsayers because they are the slaves and friends of the
devil..” George Schurhammer and Joseph Wicki, ed., Epistolae S. Francisci
Xaverii 1 (Rome: 1944-45), 221.
”Der Glaube ist
selbst Kultur. Das bedeutet dann auch, daß er ein eigenes Subjekt ist: eine
Lebens- und Kulturgeminschaft, die wir ”Volks Gottes” nennen.” J. Ratzinger,
”Der Christliche Glaube vor der Herausforderung der Kulturen,” in Pauls
Gordan (Hrsg.) Evangelium und Inkuturation (1492-1992), Köln: Verlag
Styria, 1993,p. 17.
”Some customs and symbolism will be
found to be incompatible with the message that Jesus came to teach and
embody and Christians in Asia, as elsewhere in the world, have a duty
throughout the world to challenge their cultures and seek to purify them.”
(50) „Instrumentum Laboris: Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of
Bishops,, in L´Osservatore Romano(English Ed.), 25 Feb. 1998,p. XI.
Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi
It is by the
encounter of Christianity in India, for example, that the evil practise of
Sati in the Hindu culture was abolished. “And if what they [the
missionaries] did was considered by some as an attempt to disrupt Hindu
social life and traditions and therefore blameworthy, the blame belongs to
God. Every reform movement in India in the 19th century and after, beginning
with Raja Ram Mohan Roy and continuing till today both at the social and
political levels have deeply affected the traditional religious life of the
large Hindu community. The impact of Christian thought and Christian service
to India in education and social transformation, has contributed effectively
to the Indian and particularly the Hindu Renaissance of the last hundred
years.” Lacombe. L. and Lawrence Sundaram, Blame It on God: If Brahmins
became Christians, Bombay: Better yourself Books, 1996, p. 7.