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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: December 2020



MISSIONARY ACCOUNTS OF the East Indies come thick and fast over the course of the seventeenth century, an era in which the successes of exploration and the opening of new trade routes gave way to the “harvesting of souls” for the Catholic church. The papal congregation for propagating the faith or “Propaganda Fide” had been founded in 1622 in the Tridentine spirit of centralization and reassertion of papal authority and was established to coordinate jurisdictional and sacramental authority for missionary work. Apostolic Colleges like that at San Pietro in Montorio in Trastevere or Saint Bonaventure and John Capistran in Mexico City were purposefully set up to recruit and train outgoing or incoming missionaries, amongst other things, in foreign languages, whether Nahuatl or Arabic. Regular clergy (from the Latin regula, living under a “rule”) had of course been sent out in considerable numbers over the sixteenth century alongside secular priests, especially after “the propagation of the Faith and progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine” via ministries detailed in the second papal bull Exposcit debitum had been incited by the Jesuits in 1550. Now other orders like the Capuchins, the Carmelites, the Theatines, Barnabites and—somewhat laggard, the Augustinians—also took it upon themselves to send professed members ad partes infidelium. The whole concept of missio, it has been argued, took on a new meaning, one of association with a specific body of clergy, precisely at this time. Apostolic provinces overseas were created under titular bishops for the purposes of administering these different orders, although they did not necessarily map contiguously on to the pre-existing structure of episcopal dioceses of the Portuguese Padroado (Crown Patronage), centred first on Funchal and then from 1534 on Goa, or indeed match other orders’ apostolic provinces. Thus, for example, the Dominican province of Santo Rosario, founded in 1587, encompassed the Philippines, Japan, and China but not—unlike the Franciscan province of San Gregorio Magno, founded in 1591—Siam. Many of these provinces, shaped around their order's houses, anyway needed modification according to circumstance.