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11. Vatican say Thomas visit not substantiated

Chapter Eleven

The Vatican officially stated in 1952 that the landing of St. Thomas at Cranganore in 52 CE was “unverified”.[38] Before this, in 1729, the Bishop of Mylapore had written to the Sacred Congregation of Rites and asked for verification as to “whether this place be the true sepulcher of St. Thomas.” The Vatican’s reply has never been published, and we may safely assume that it was a negative reply.

However, the total lack of evidence for the apostolate of St. Thomas in India, did not stop Popes  Leo XIII and Pius XI, in letters dated 1886 and 1923, from repeating the refrain found in the heretical Acts of Thomas, that India fell to the lot of Thomas, though they were careful not to include Malabar and Mylapore in their references.

Sir Henry Yule, writing in his Marco Polo about the Church’s position on St. Thomas in Mylapore, in 1903, says, “The question [of St. Thomas] appears to have become a party one among the Romanists in India in connection with other differences, and I see that the authorities now ruling the Catholics at Madras are strong in disparagement of the localities[39] and the whole story connecting St. Thomas with Mailapur.”

After this disparagement by the Mylapore prelates, came the learned disparagement of T.K. Joseph in a number of books on St. Thomas. He had done years of research on the South Indian tradition, and had presented his findings to a number of famous scholars who had then replied to him by post. In 1926, Prof. E.J. Rapson, who had written on St. Thomas in the Cambridge History of India, wrote, “I have read [your letter] carefully, and my impression is that you have given good reasons for doubting the historical truth of the story of St. Thomas in South India.” In 1927, Sylvain Levi, the renowned Parisian Indologist and research scholar, wrote. “You are right in denying any historical value to local legends which have nothing to bring to their support. What is known from early books points only to North-West India, and no other place, for St. Thomas’s apostolic activity and martyrdom. This is, of course, mere tradition, not real history.” In 1952, Prof. K.S. Latourette, the Yale University church historian who had written A History of the Expansion of Christianity, wrote to T.K. Joseph that the evidence against St. Thomas in South India “is very convincing”. And in 1953, Fr. H. Heras, S.J., Director of the Historical Research Institute, St. Xavier’s College, Bombay, wrote, “I am fully convinced that [the tomb of St. Thomas] has never been in Mylapore. I have said that many times.” Earlier, in 1944, in The Two Apostles of India, he had argued on the basis of Malabar’s inauthentic St. Thomas Songthat St. Thomas  was buried at Mylapore.

But when T.K. Joseph wrote to the Encyclopaedia Britannica editor at Chicago in 1950, pointing out the errors in the Encyclopaedia’s 1947 Fourteenth Edition St. Thomas article, he was not successful in getting them corrected. We have shown in this book that the St. Thomas article in the Encyclopaedia’s1984 Fifteenth Edition and 2018 internet edition are also grossly mistaken. In 1996 the Encyclopaedia’seditor had stated in a letter to us that “we have concluded that the portion of the article that refers to Thomas’ later life places too much emphasis on the unlikely scenario of his travelling to, and being martyred in India”[40] and  promised to correct the St. Thomas entry. He has not done so and we can only conclude that the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s editors like their cooked-up St. Thomas story and plan to keep it for more editions to come.

38. This statement was contained in a message dated 13 November 1952 that was sent to India’s Christians who were preparing to celebrate the 19th centenary (“21-11-52” to 21-11-1952) of St. Thomas. It is not clear who sent the message, but presumably it was from the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints at Rome.

39. Viz. San Thome and Luz at Mylapore, Little Mount at Saidapet and Big Mount at St. Thomas Mount.

40. See Chapter 4 for details.

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