Petition to Pope to make St. Joseph Vaz a Patron Saint of Interreligious Relations

Petition to Pope to make St. Joseph Vaz a Patron SaintSt. Joseph (Naik) Vaz was canonized in 2015 by Pope Francis.  In 2021 Pope Francis was petitioned to make him Patron Saint of First Responders for washing the sores and nursing the abandoned victims of a smallpox epidemic in the Buddhist Kingdom of Kandy at the risk of getting infected himself.  This resonated with our humanitarian needs during the Covid crisis. Now, there is a new petition to Pope Francis to make St. Joseph (Naik) Vaz Patron Saint of Interreligious Relations.

From the Joseph Naik Vaz Institute

67 Kingston Road, Kensington, CA 94707

1. Reason for Petition to Make St. Joseph (Naik) Vaz Patron Saint for Various Apostolates

It is a common practice of the Universal Catholic Church to designate a Catholic Saint a Patron of his or her major apostolates. In 2014, His Holiness Pope Francis canonized nineteenth-century St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, C.M.I. of Kerala, India as the first male Catholic canonized saint of Indian origin and a member of the Syro- Malabar Church, an Eastern Catholic Church.

At his Canonization, H.H. Pope Francis made St. Kuriakose a Patron of four apostolates: of the Press Industry, the Media, Literature, and of Congregations for having founded the first native congregations for men and women in Kerala.

On January 15, 2015, only a month after canonizing St. Kuriakose, His Holiness canonized Indian-Sri Lankan Latin-Rite Saint Joseph (Naik) Vaz. But he was not selected to be made a Patron Saint of any of his major contributions to the Universal Church, which include re-building the Church in Mangalore and Kanara under Dutch opposition and destruction, then re-founding the Church in Sri Lanka under Dutch persecution. He is popularly known as the Apostle of Kanara and Sri Lanka. He is the only Asian canonized Saint given the title of Apostle in colonial and modern times.

To acknowledge his Indianness and kinships to native Sri Lankan ethnicity would be a very great symbol of the Church’s respect for the spiritual wisdom of the East, something that H.H. Pope St. John Paul II alluded to in his homily at the Beatification of this special Native Saint in 1995.

II. Who Is St. Joseph Vaz

*Like St. Kuriakose, St Joseph Vaz is a fully native Indian and non-European Apostle.

*He was born in Goa, which was formerly a Portuguese colony on the west coast of India. .

.*He was descended from the Hindu family of Naik in Goa and is someone who bridges the cultures and spirituality of the East and the Christian West. We have retained his original family name Naik in the name of our a mark of respect for our Hindu ancestors and Goan pre-history. As well as that, St. Joseph (Naik) Vaz never gave his converts Portuguese names or took away their original names.

*After he was ordained, he first was sent to Kanara to re-build the Catholic missions there destroyed by the anti-Catholic Dutch. He smuggled himself into Sri Lanka to minister to the abandoned Catholics under Dutch persecution. He played a crucial role in establishing the Church in Sri Lanka, reviving it under Dutch persecution. He and his priests from Goa gave humanitarian aid to fatally sick smallpox victims during a devastating smallpox epidemic in the capital and Buddhist kingdom of Kandy.

*He was recognised by the Hindus and Buddhists and the non-Christian sovereigns of Sri Lanka as an Indian “Sannyasi” because he lived the ideals of renunciation, walking barefoot across the length and breadth of Sri Lanka for twenty-three years, through forests and rivers among wild animals on his missionary journeys, often on the run from his Dutch persecutors.

III. Our Campaign to have him made a “Patron Saint”

We started a campaign to make him a Patron Saint of his major contributions to the Church in 2021. We started by Petitioning His Holiness Pope Francis to make him Patron Saint of First Responders for nursing the abandoned victims of smallpox in the epidemic in Kandy, Sri Lanka, in 1696., washing their sores, sheltering and feeding them at the risk of fatal infection from the disease. We have now expanded that Petition to make him a Patron of more of his contributions.

Summary of Categories of Patron Saint requested in our new Petition dated August 15, 2023

Your Holiness, We humbly petition Your Holiness to recognise and make St. Joseph Vaz a Patron Saint of the following major contributions and achievements:

1. Patron Saint of First Responders for risking his life from infection and death by personally nursing the abandoned victims of smallpox in Kandy in 1696.

2. Patron Saint of Freedom of Religion for ministering to persecuted Catholics and re-founding the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka under severe Persecution and deprivation of Human Rights, and for submitting a Petition for Freedom of Religion in 1706.

3. Patron of the Laity because he trained an underground Laity to be catechists and help run chapels and churches for the beleaguered Indian priests he had smuggled under persecution to minister to them.

4.Patron Saint of the Education and Priesthood of Tribal Peoples because he educated his Tribal Kunbi Servant, John Vaz and recommended him to the Priesthood.

5. Patron Saint of Inter-religious Relations because St. Joseph (Naik) Vaz was recognised as a“Sannyasi” which is the foundation of Indian Hindu Vedantic Spirituality and way of life. He never touched money or accepted money for ministering to his Catholics or providing services to those in need. He walked barefoot from the day he was ordained a priest. The Buddhist Kings of Kandy and other non-Christians admired him as the Compassionate Boddhisattva for his compassionate care of the abandoned victims of smallpox in Kandy and throughout the Sri Lankan towns and countryside. In a plot to have him banished from the protection of the Buddhist King of Kandy from Dutch persecution and pursuit, the Muslim physician of the King, named Gopala Mudaliyar intervened with the King for mercy and saved him. He was much admired by the many Muslim victims of smallpox that St. Joseph (Naik)Vaz nursed back to health. He is a worthy inspiration and Patron of Christian-Muslim Relations.

6. Patron Saint of Native Catholic Para-Liturgy and Native Catholic Literature for having founded the Para-Liturgy and Literature in the Native languages of Tamil and Sinhala of Sri Lanka.

7. The Model and Patron of the Native Clergy because the Papal Delegate, Monsignor Zalesky had been inspired to choose him as a model for the Native clergy that he had been sent to establish.

8. Patron Saint of Native Religious Congregations because he established the first fully Native Religious Congregation, the Indian branch of the Oratorians of St. Felipe Neri on September 25, 1685, thereby opening the doors of the religious life for Native peoples.

May we find Peace and Fulfilment with our Inter-Religious Brothers and Sisters through the Example and Sacrifices of St. Joseph (Naik)Vaz and the Wisdom and Compassion of his Royal Sri Lankan Kings who gave him Religious Freedom and Protection from the Persecution of his Dutch opponents. Their mutual religious respect is an example for all of humanity. Let us make him our Patron Saint!

Joseph Naik Vaz Institute

You can sign this petition here


stained glass window with St. Joseph Vaz


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