Cardinal Gracias's choice of India's first cardinal, had the approval of Nehru
Valerian Cardinal Gracias wrote in a Foreword to the second edition (1968) of John Correia Afonso's well-known book Jesuit Letters and Indian History: : "Historical studies make a signal contribution to bringing men to see things in their changeable and evolutionary aspects." It seems to sum up Cardinal's perception of the link between Church, Culture and History. He was drawing from Vatican II in its Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. It is very likely that the Cardinal defended this mission of history faced with the difficulties he had experienced from the colonial past and the transition to Independent India or to Liberated Goa.
As part of the commemorations of 50 years of Goa's liberation it would do credit to Goan scholarship to remember all those who helped Goa reach its political freedom. The Goan community in Bombay was broken asunder over the issue, and there were as many fighters for integration of Goa into independent India as those who preferred to retain Goa as a holiday home where they could return, from time to time, to taste foreign drinks and other goodies.
Tristão Bragança-Cunha's Denationalization of Goans and other anti-colonial political activities earned for him a jail term of 8 years and 15 years of deprivation of political rights from the Military Court in Goa. He had denounced that the Goans were reduced to mental subservience through the services of the Church, threats of the Inquisition and the dictatorial regime of Salazar. He did not live to see liberated Goa, but he earned the consensus of all Goan freedom-fighters to choose him as their symbolic representative when the monument for the freedom fighters was erected at Azad Maidan.
Alongside the politically conscious T B Cunha, Bombay saw several Goan doctors as mayors, like Acácio Viegas, J A Colaço, Alban D'Souza and Leo D'Souza (father and son) Ubald Mascarenhas, J N Heredia, Simon Fernandes. There were other prominent Goan personalities, like Gerson da Cunha, J N da Fonseca, and others who were either indifferent to Goa´s liberation, or practised political games that allowed them the best of the two worlds, living in Bombay with honourable status and summer-holidaying in Goa. Francisco Correia Afonso earned a papal award for his deft slogan "Rome Rule is Home Rule". Mariano Saldanha, then based in Lisbon, described it caustically as "saber aliar beatice à vaidade" (ability to combine piety with vanity).
Heredia clan patronised the Instituto Luso-Indiano, run by the Goan emigrants under supervision of the Goa Government that had sanctioned an annual subsidy of 75,000 rupees since 1929. Curiously, J N Heredia also acted as Vice-President of the Goa Liberation Council. Simon Fernandes kept up a sustained campaign through Goa Times in defence of Goan Portuguese identity, but with a mix of freedom discourse thrown in for a good measure.
Leo Lawrence was fiercely critical of Cardinal Gracias for defending Nehru's decision to occupy Goa. His book Nehru Seizes Goa (1963), published in New York, needs to be read in the context of his involvement as a practising advocate appointed by the Portuguese authorities in Goa to defend the Instituto Luso Indiano. That brought him under Indian surveillance. In 1959 Leo left for Goa where he was recruited as Deputy Director in the Department of Information and Tourism under Mártires Lopes, described by T B Cunha in not very laudatory terms. I direct the curious to the source (Free Goa, 25-12-54).
Just prior to the Indian conquest of Goa, Leo was assigned to brief foreign reporters who were called in to supervise the satyagraha movement. Immediately after the conquest of Goa, Leo attached himself to an American reporter, proceeded to Delhi and before end December 1961, with the assistance of the Brazilian Embassy, he left for Lisbon, where he joined the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and served for almost two decades in the Permanent Mission of Portugal to the United Nations.
Leo Lawrence refers to what he calls Cardinal's Manifesto. Leo gives an estimated total of one hundred thousand Goans in Bombay, from whom only ninety-six signed Cardinal's document, and of these, he states that two-thirds were coerced into toeing the line under various threats. Leo Lawrence does not hesitate to mention how the pro-Portuguese press in Bombay ridiculed the Eminence and how some Goans arranged to send to him a saffron robe of the Hindu Sadhu as a token of his betrayal of the Christian cause in India.
For Leo Lawrence, the failure of the Cardinal to soften the Goans at Nehru's bidding led to the creation of a special section of "Goa affairs" at the Bombay Police Headquarters to screen and punish the pro-Portuguese elements. It is obvious that the Indian authorities would not permit a Portuguese-run institution in Bombay to influence against the integration of Goa into independent India. Interestingly, none of the dire prophecies of Leo Lawrence have come true, including what he predicted about Portuguese African colonies. The choice of Valerian Cardinal Gracias as first cardinal of India was possible largely due to the role played by the Jesuit archbishop of Bombay, T D Roberts, and by Nehru himself who ensured peaceful relations with the Vatican that was worried about how the new nation would orient its religious policies.
As for the Cardinal's influence with Jawaharlal Nehru, his distinguished personality and position were sufficient, but the hostile Portuguese response to his choice as Archbishop of Bombay in 1947 and his later appointment as first Cardinal of India also weighed in his favour. All this needs to be viewed in the context of Salazar's policy of alliance with the Church from 1940 onwards through a Missionary Accord. It came as a relief to the Vatican after three decades of anti-clericalism by the republican regime since 1910.
D José da Costa Nunes had arrived in Goa from Macau, as archbishop-patriarch of Goa few months after the signing of the Missionary Accord. He showed much zeal in advising Goan clergy to remain faithful to the Portuguese regime against the winds of freedom blowing in Goa.
T B Cunha accused the Cardinal of timidity in defending the political freedom of his countrymen as compared with the Portuguese church dignitaries (Free Goa, 25-7-56). He voiced his grievance in the context of the Nyogi report and Cardinal's intervention favouring continued entry of foreign missionaries to train seminary staff.
To conclude, much useful information can be gathered in the book O Estado Novo e a Igreja Católica (Lisboa, 1998) by Dr Manuel Braga da Cruz, presently the first layman heading the Catholic University of Portugal, about the conflict between Portugal and Vatican over the appointment of Valerian Gracias as as Cardinal, the tantrums of the archbishop-patriarch D José da Costa Nunes and his resignation, the efforts of Salazar to create for him a posting of doubtful significance as vice-camerlengo in the Roman curia, and finally the indignation expressed by Portugal over Pope Paul's participation in the Eucharistic Congress in Bombay in 1964. It was viewed by Salazar as a tacit approval by Vatican of the Indian occupation of Goa. Something that few might know, there was a proposal to shift the casket of S. Francis Xavier to Bombay, so as to avoid an initial interest of the Pope in visiting the tomb in Goa.
The Pope did not visit either Goa or New Delhi to focus upon exclusively religious nature of his visit. The Pope sought to compensate for any political fall-out by sending in 1965 a Golden Rose to the Basilica of Fatima in Portugal.
TEOTÓNIO R DE SOUZA
Director da Lic. em História da Un. Lusófona
Prof. em Ciência das Religiões