Saint Xavier’s Exposition: Why it must stop – Sankrant Sanu

“It cannot be overlooked that the Catholic Church hails an arch criminal like Francis Xavier as the Patron Saint of the East. His carcass is still worshipped as a holy relic and the basilica where it is enshrined remains a place of Christian pilgrimage.” – Sita Ram Goel

“And it cannot be overlooked that the BJP Government of Goa does exactly the same and is making a pile of money out of gullible pilgrims who come to see the ‘saint’ whom Hindus know as ‘the Curse of the Coromandel.’” — Ishwar Sharan

Indian Christians carry the remains of Saint Francis Xavier towards the Se Cathedral during a procession in Goa on November 22, 2014.

Robert Rosario, a Konkani Christian, has been actively campaigning against the “exposition” by the Catholic Church in Goa of Saint Xavier’s body. This event takes place every ten years and [the last exposition was] running from Nov 22, 2014 to Jan 4, 2015. Xavier’s place in history is highly controversial with historical evidence showing that he ordered the Goa Inquisition that ran for over 250 years in which native Goa residents—Christians, Hindus and Muslims—were brutally tortured and killed. Mainstream coverage of the event, from MidDay to the Times of India, has generally omitted the contested and controversial nature of this exposition. In a country where JNU students even take up the cause of mythological demons such as Mahishasura, it is strange that the story of very real human victims, Konkani-speaking people of India, is brushed under the carpet. We caught up with Robert for an interview to find the motivations for his campaign. — Sankrant Sanu

Robert Rosario

Can you tell a little bit about your own background and history and how you came to be interested in this issue? 

I am a Mangalorean Konkani Catholic. I am a social activist and was active in the Church also. For a long time I have noticed some mismanagement in the funds of the Church. I started digging I found something is wrong at the base. About Inquisition I had heard of a long time ago but I did not know that Francis Xavier was behind it. We venerate and consider him a saint. I was shocked to find that Francis Xavier was behind it. I started digging and found there is enough evidence for this.

What happens is that every 10 years they open the body for this so-called veneration. I thought this is the right time, about a month back I wrote to the Bishop of Goa and requested him to stop this and send the body to Portugal. We have had enough of this. The history of this man is very bad, there are enough crimes on this account, he seems to be a very inhuman person and I quoted from histories written by experts. I copied to the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, their President, Vice President. Somehow they did not reply. I kept posting reminders, they never bothered to reply. I wrote to the Government of Goa and the Government of India.

So what specifically did you find against Xavier? Of course, Xavier is venerated, there is even a big college in his name. What specific things did you find?

The Inquisition went on for 250 years, during this period, thousands were massacred, badly tortured. I am a Konkani Catholic from Mangalore. My ancestors were earlier in Goa, due to the Inquisition they migrated to Mangalore. This is our history, it goes back to Goa. What was this Inquisition? I had heard but I did not know that this man Xavier started it. I found a letter from 1545, this man writes to Rome and Portugal King that he wants to start a Holy Inquisition. Prior to that he was in Lisbon, he knew fully well what Inquisition was. He was aware of the torture. Being fully aware of this, he writes to start the Inquisition in Goa, the cruelty was very much in his mind.

But there are people who say that the Inquisition only started after he died, so he shouldn’t be held responsible for all the crimes.

He wrote a letter to the Pope and the Portugal King knowing communication was slow, by sea route, he initiated the process, there are documents that he was taking hourly stock of what was happening, he was personally supervising it during his lifetime. And he initiated it, so he cannot be absolved of his crime.

How would you respond to people in the Church who say he did a lot of service for Christianity?

He has done a lot of conversions. If conversions are in the service of Christianity, then he has done it. But if you consider the humanity angle to it, he was the most inhuman person I find. Even Hitler had some humanity, he was worse than that.

But what did he do in his lifetime that you would call not very human?

In the letter itself he writes, “People here are very bad, their god is black, these people need to be taught a lesson, Holy Inquisition is the only way.” In his mind he is a criminal, that mind is reflected in the letter.

I posted this on a forum. I had a friend who is doing his post-graduate at St Aloysius College. He said this is available in the notes given by the Jesuits at Aloysius College, all this is mentioned in the notes, how he benefited Christianity, how he used the sword to convert people.

You are saying this is well-known to the Church?

They know it very well but they are hiding from us. Even when they say they tell from their point of view. They say (of the Inquisition) that these people were so away from God that it was necessary to bring them to God.

So you are saying that a number of ancestors of Catholics on the Konkan coast had to undergo this (torture)?

South to Goa they certainly migrated due to Inquisition. It went on for over 250 years. Not only Catholics, there are Hindus, you find Konkani Hindus called Goud Saraswat Brahmins (GSB), there are Kudumbi, Scheduled Castes, and all Konkani-speaking people migrated from Goa due to the Inquisition.

You got no response from the Church. But what about the community, are they receptive?

They are shocked. We have been singing hymns of this great man, it is difficult to digest. Suddenly we learn, history says he is such a big criminal, but our priests never told us, they always said that he is such a big saint. Sometimes they blame me, there must be something wrong with your study. I confront them with evidence.

So are there reputed historians who have documented this?

Yes. Something interesting I will tell you. There is a Konkani paper, the official mouthpiece of the Bishop’s House of Mangalore, Raknno. It has published a long story, a novel, in three volumes, written by one Saldanha [?]. Though the story is supposed to be kalpanic (fictional), the facts were related to Inquisition and all the facts are related to the Inquisition, these are showed in the story. And it is published in the official mouthpiece.

So the story shows the Inquisition … that this was a good thing or this was bad?

No. The entire story was from the Inquisitor’s point of view, it was shown as good, rather as necessary. Because the pagans were to be taught a lesson. But it mentions all the torture, all the burning—this is mentioned. Three big volumes are there. How they were uncultured, needed to be taught a lesson. He has mentioned all the torture parts really clearly.

So what is it that you would like as an outcome here?

The crimes are of such magnitude that you just cannot undo them, undoing or compensating is impossible. The Goa Inquisition was even crueller than the European Inquisition. The least we can ask is the symbol of crime, that is the body, the so-called body, of the man is lying there, and it exposed once is 10 years for so-called veneration, that is like sprinkling salt on the wounds of the victims. At least stop that, you can’t undo the crimes of the man, at least stop this. Send the body back to Portugal. We are no more governed by Portugal. After 1961, we are independent. Till Portuguese were here, we couldn’t demand that. But after 1961, the day the Portuguese left, the body should have gone with them, why it remains here even after 53 years? We have always preached ahimsa, this symbol of himsa should no longer be in our country.

Goa has a BJP Government, but they have not done anything to bring out the facts?

• The so-called exposition gives them so much revenue, that everything else is forgotten, morality is forgotten. The Kannada Prabha quoted me, the PRO of the Church said Xavier is a great man, he did so much for the Church, but he objected. The government is also supporting the exposition. How could the government support such a blunder? – Niti Central, 26 November 2014

» Sankrant Sanu is an entrepreneur, writer and researcher based in Seattle and Gurgaon. His essays were published in the book “Invading the Sacred” that contested Western academic writing on Hinduism and is a popular writer and blogs at He is a graduate of IIT Kanpur and the University of Texas and holds six technology patents.

Francis Xavier

Deccan Herald Newspaper, Goa

See also

Francis Xavier

“Goa is sadly famous for its Inquisition, which is contrary to humanity as much as to commerce. The Portuguese monks deluded us into believing that the Indian populace was worshipping the Devil, while it is they who served him.” – Voltaire

2 responses to “Saint Xavier’s Exposition: Why it must stop – Sankrant Sanu

  1. “Goa is sadly famous for its Inquisition, equally contrary to humanity and commerce. The Portuguese monks made us believe that the people worshipped the devil, and it is they who have served him.” – Voltaire

    Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa

    Xavier’s resting place replaces Shiva temple

    The Church of Bom Jesus displaced a Saptakotishwar Shiva Temple in Old Goa. This was a second temple as the main deity was at Narve.

    Saptakotishwar was the deity of the Kadamba dynasty around the twelfth century. The main temple was at Narve. It was destroyed by the Bahamani Sultan Allauddin Hasan Gangu in 1352, and rebuilt in 1367 by Vijayanagar King Harihararaya.

    Because the church replaces a Shiva temple, there is a tradition in Goa that the Basilica of Bom Jesus — a basilica is a church that has special privileges, i.e. the bishop has a private altar to say Mass and doesn’t have to share altars with the parish priest — cannot keep a cross on the roof of the church. It keeps falling down for one reason or another.

    Francis Xavier's head
    Xavier’s body was switched for that of a Buddhist monk – Capt Ajit Vadakayil

    On 11th Dec 1553, Xavier’s dead body was shipped from China to Goa.

    The Pope’s propaganda has caught on that viewing his dead embalmed body can bring miraculous good fortune and can heal you of all your ailments. Why not? He has converted more people to Christianity than any of Jesus’s disciples. The “Vatican poster boy’s” embalmed body lies in Goa and is exposed to the public every 10 years—the last was in Dec 2002. Two million of the faithful has descended on Goa for a month. The Vatican has been ignoring demands from the descendants of a Buddhist monk for a DNA test — who claim that the body is of a Sri Lankan monk. The body was switched after the arrogant Captain of the Portugese ship threw it overboard. The monk had died due to consumption of a rare herb. The preserved body of the monk was snatched by Portugese soldiers, dressed up in catholic priest garb and brought to Goa. There is a witness to this — Francis Xavier’s own converted servant he took from my hometown Calicut, by the name of Christopher.

    Xavier was a tall white man– the body is of a small dark man. The bullshit given is that his body was put in lime, in China — so the great appearance change. DNA test never lies!!

    And lime does NOT convert white skin to a uniform brown texture!

    Teotonio de Souza

    Dr. Teotonio R. de Souza

    “Xavier was aware of the brutality of the Inquisition,” says Dr. De Souza – Devika Sequeira – Deccan Herald – Bangalore – 4 Dec. 2012

    One of the darkest chapters in Indo-Portuguese history, ‘the Inquisition’ deserves far more comprehensive research to bring out the truth from an Indian perspective, says historian Teotonio R de Souza.

    Head of the Department of History, Universidade Lusofona de Humanidades e Tecnologias, the Lisbon-based De Souza who has published 10 books. He spoke to Devika Sequeira of Deccan Herald. Excerpts:

    This year marks 500 years of the Portuguese arrival in Goa in 1510 which set the stage for one of the longest colonial dominations in history. Academically, how significant is this anniversary?

    — While the Portuguese had already started their commercial links at Cannanore-Calicut-Cochin about a decade earlier, the conquest of Goa marked a turning-point in their policy, namely the decision to secure a land-base of their own with full sovereignty. Two decades later it was made the headquarters of the new empire, which from 1505 was named Estado da India. As Afonso de Albuquerque wrote to his king, the settling down in Goa of casados (married settlers) would send a signal to all in India that the Portuguese had come to stay!

    Given the complex and often bitter political relationship between Goa and Portugal post the 1961 Liberation, Goa has given the event a complete miss. How should it have responded in your view?

    — It was unfortunate that the Salazar regime (Portuguese dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar) was not flexible enough to compromise and dialogue with newly independent India. It was a regime that was also blind to world developments and survived till 1974 causing much heartache to the Portuguese themselves. Goans cannot though deny the fact that Goa owes its unique identity, and consequently its statehood, to the colonial experience — albeit that identity might have come from both good and bad experiences. The Portuguese republic in 1910 reduced the earlier restraints upon the Hindu population and extended to them the political benefits of liberalism. Goa could join Portugal this year in commemorating 100 years of this event. Goans should know that Portugal too has grown through harsh experiences of their own people. It would benefit Goans and the Portuguese to share these mutual experiences.

    Can you throw some light on the Goa Inquisition?

    — The Goa Inquisition has been studied, but most studies concentrate upon the victims of Jewish descent. They were the main targets of the tribunals of Inquisition everywhere. However, the number of native victims, though less harshly treated, was proportionately much larger. Even the lighter sentences were traumatic for the natives and disrupted their family and social lives. Many spent years in forced labour in galleys and gunpowder factories, which needed cheap labour for the needs of the empire. But the fear and panic caused by the Inquisition procedures drove many out of the territory. A lot more incisive research would be required to trace these cases.

    Those accused of religious heresies and who refused to retract, or those accused of relapses in sodomy were the prime targets of death penalty. Many others were imprisoned and released with lighter sentences.

    The Inquisition was established in Goa in 1560 at the behest of St Francis Xavier. Was he aware of the brutality of the Inquisition tribunal?

    — Francis Xavier and Simão Rodrigues, two founder-members of the Society of Jesus were together in Lisbon before Francis Xavier left for India. Both were asked to assist spiritually the prisoners of the Inquisition and were present at the very first auto-da-fé [burning at the stake] celebrated in Portugal in September 1540, at which 23 were absolved and two were condemned to be burnt, including a French cleric. Hence, Francis Xavier could not have been unaware of the brutality of the Inquisition.

    There was a debate a few years ago about excavating the well of the Inquisition that lies buried under the lawns of the See Cathedral in Old Goa. The issue was never pursued for fear of hurting religious sentiments. Is historical truth not obscured by such an attitude?

    — All research related to the Inquisition that played havoc in the lives of Goans needs to be welcomed. The fears are generally unfounded. The Inquisition was not a religious institution, but essentially a political institution for disciplining all colonial subjects. I have more than once proposed the creation of an Inquisition Museum that could be a wonderful instrument of education and would even add to the income of cultural tourism. I think only a prolonged debate over this issue could clear the minds from unwarranted fears and sectarian prejudices.

    Across Goa priceless stone carvings and ruins of pre-Portuguese temples lie unprotected and abandoned. What should be done about these?

    — The situation is much better today. Gritly von Miiterwalner, a German archeologist/anthropologist collected dozens of rare old stones — satikal and viragal — all over Goa, and handed them over to the Archaeological Survey of India in the mid 60s. This effort has to continue and perhaps local panchayats could be involved in protecting and displaying their cultural heritage. That could help carry cultural tourism to the hinterland.

    Thus Spoke Francis Xavier

    In his letters to the Jesuits in Rome, Xavier wrote: “There are in these parts among the pagans a class of men called Brahmins. They are as perverse and wicked a set as can anywhere be found, and to whom applies the Psalm which says: ‘From an unholy race, and wicked and crafty men, deliver me, Lord.’ If it were not for the Brahmins, we should have all the heathens embracing our faith.”

    “Following the baptisms, the new Christians return to their homes and come back with their wives and families to be in their turn also prepared for baptism. After all have been baptised, I order that everywhere the temples of the false gods be pulled down and idols broken. I know not how to describe in words the joy I feel before the spectacle of pulling down and destroying the idols by the very people who formerly worshipped them.” Xavier did this after the Hindu Raja of Quilon had given him a large grant to build churches!

    On baptising and inducting children into Christianity, he wrote in 1543 to the Society of Jesus in Rome: “These children, I trust heartily, by the grace of God, will be much better than their fathers. They show an ardent love for the Divine law, and an extraordinary zeal for learning our holy religion and imparting it to others. Their hatred for idolatry is marvellous. They get into feuds with the heathen about it, and whenever their own parents practise it, they reproach them and come off to tell me at once. Whenever I hear of any act of idolatrous worship, I go to the place with a large band of these children, who very soon load the devil with a greater amount of insult and abuse than he has lately received of honor and worship from their parents, relations, and acquaintances. The children run at the idols, upset them, dash them down, break them to pieces, spit on them, trample on them, kick them about, and in short heap on them every possible outrage.”

    Xavier’s letter demanding the Inquisition be sent to Goa

    Francis Xavier sent this letter to King John III of Portugal on May 16th, 1545: “The second necessity for the Christians is that your Majesty establish the Holy Inquisition, because there are many who live according to the Jewish law, and according to the Mahomedan sect, without any fear of God or shame of the world. And since there are many spread all over the fortresses, there is the need of the Holy Inquisition and of many preachers. Your Majesty should provide such necessary things for your loyal and faithful subjects in India.” – Joseph Wicki, Documenta Indica, Vol. IV, Rome, 1956.

    The Inquisition in Goa

    Historian Paul Roberts describes what went on in the Inquisition’s Goa court that had been housed in the Sultan’s old palace and had a huge plaster image of Christ overlooking the scene: “Children were flogged and slowly dismembered in front of their parents, whose eyelids had been sliced off to make sure they missed nothing. Extremities were amputated carefully, so that a person could remain conscious even when all that remained was a torso and head. Male genitals were removed and burned in front of wives, breasts hacked off and vaginas penetrated by swords while husbands were forced to watch…. And it went on for two hundred years.” – Paul Williams Roberts, The Empire of the Soul: Some Journeys in India, New York, 1997.


    Francis Xavier was the pioneer of anti-Brahmanism which was adopted in due course as a major plank in the missionary propaganda by all Christian denominations. Lord Minto, Governor General of India from 1807 to 1812, submitted a Note to his superiors in London when the British Parliament was debating whether missionaries should be permitted in East India Company’s domain under the Charter of 1813. He enclosed with his Note some “propaganda material used by the missionaries” and, referring to one missionary tract in particular, wrote: “The remainder of this tract seems to aim principally at a general massacre of the Brahmanas.” (M. D. David (ed.), Western Colonialism in Asia and Christianity, Bombay, 1988, p. 85). Anti-Brahmanism has become the dominant theme in the speeches and writings of Dravidian politicians and Indian secularists of all sorts.

    How I Came to Write “Guardian of the Dawn” – Richard Zimler

    Extract from the middle of the article:

    Shortly after Portuguese troops conquered Goa from the Sultan of Bijapur in 1510, they began forcing the tens of thousands of Hindu residents to convert to Christianity. In 1540, during a wave of fanaticism, they destroyed 300 Hindu temples, many of them built in ancient times. Then, in 1545, a Spanish Jesuit missionary named Francis Xavier petitioned the Portuguese Crown to establish the Inquisition. Once the king’s approval had been secured, the former Hindu population of Goa, as well as the hundreds of secret Jews living there, found themselves at the complete mercy of the Church. Simply keeping a statue of Shiva in a family shrine, or whispering a Hebrew prayer over the grave of a loved one, became a serious criminal offence. Those discovered to be practicing their old beliefs in secret were summarily arrested and tortured in dungeons, kept in shackles by priests hoping to force them to divulge the names of friends and family members who had joined them in their ‘heretical’ practices.

    Prisoners who refused to identify others or give up their beliefs in Hindu or Jewish ‘sorcery’ were strangled by executioners or burnt alive in public Acts of Faith – from 1560 all the way up to 1812, when the Inquisition was finally abolished

    Readers might be interested in Xavier’s innovations in day care, that so captured the imagination of the doctores of the Mother Church who so fondly and gently ‘suffers the little ones to come unto her,’ that he was canonized:

    As to the numbers who become Christians, you may understand them from this, that it often happens to me to be hardly able to use my hands from the fatigue of baptizing: often in a single day I have baptized whole villages. Sometimes I have lost my voice and strength altogether with repeating again and again the Credo and the other forms. The fruit that is reaped by the baptism of infants, as well as by the instruction of children and others, is quite incredible. These children, I trust heartily, by the grace of God, will be much better than their fathers. They show an ardent love for the Divine law, and an extraordinary zeal for learning our holy religion and imparting it to others. Their hatred for idolatry is marvellous. They get into feuds with the heathen about it, and whenever their own parents practise it, they reproach them and come off to tell me at once. Whenever I hear of any act of idolatrous worship, I go to the place with a large band of these children, who very soon load the devil with a greater amount of insult and abuse than he has lately received of honor and worship from their parents, relations, and acquaintances. The children run at the idols, upset them, dash them down, break them to pieces, spit on them, trample on them, kick them about, and in short heap on them every possible outrage.

    Perhaps I didn’t read carefully enough, but Shri Goel seems to have missed this rather instructive, nay revelatory, piece in his book “Francis Xavier SJ.” It gives an entirely new twist to what is arguably the rage in our nursery schools: “Learning by doing.” – KS