Sneha Girap (Editor)

Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvares

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Venerated in  .
Name  Antonio Xavier
Patronage  Poor and Ill

Feast  23 September
Canonized  ., . by .
Major shrine  Ribandar
Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvares
Born  24 April 1836 Verna, Goa, Portuguese India (1836-04-24)
Died  September 23, 1923, Ribandar

Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvares (Alvares Mar Julius, Julius Mar Alvarez) (29 April 1836 – 23 September 1923) was initially a priest in the Roman Catholic Church in Goa. He converted to the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and was elevated to Metropolitan of Goa, Ceylon and Greater India in the Malankara Orthodox Church.


Early life

Alvares was born to a Goan Catholic family in Verna, Goa, Portuguese India.


Alvares was appointed by the Archbishop of Goa to minister to Catholics in British India. The Portuguese Crown claimed these territories by virtue of old privileges of Padroado (papal privilege of royal patronage granted by popes beginning in the 14th century). The more modern Popes and the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith separated these areas and reorganised them as apostolic vicariates ruled by non-Portuguese bishops, since the English rulers wished to have non-Portuguese bishops.

Successive Portuguese governments fought against this, terming this as unjustified aggression by later Popes against the irrevocable grant of Royal Patronage to the Portuguese Crown, an agitation that spread to the Goan patriots, subjects of the Portuguese Crown.

When, under Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII, the hierarchy in British India was formally reorganised independently of Portugal but with Portuguese consent, a group of pro-Padroado Goan Catholics in Bombay united under the leadership of Dr. Pedro Manoel Lisboa Pinto and Alvares as the Society for the Defense of the Royal Patronage and agitated against the Holy See, the British India government and the Portuguese government in opposition to these changes.

Uniting with Orthodox Church

Their agitation failed to reverse the changes. Angry with the Portuguese government, the group broke away from the Catholic Church and joined the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church


Alvares was consecrated as Mar Julius I, on 28 July 1889, by the Orthodox Bishop of Kottayam, Paulose Mar Athanasious, with the permission of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Peter IV to be Archbishop of autocephalous Latin Rite of Ceylon, Goa, and India.

While he was a priest of the Catholic Church he was in search of the true Biblically Christian One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. He was against the false devotion and religious exhibitionism. He objected to the Concordat of the Pope and interference of the Government in the Church administration. He could not withstand the harassment meted out to him by the ecclesiastical and civil powers. He went to Western and Eastern Churches and finally came to Maliankara and joined the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Being pious and considering his faith, his way of life and attitude towards his fellow being, he was consecrated as Bishop by Mar Joseph Dionesious, Gheevarghese Mar Gregorios of Parumala, Mar Paulose Evanios of Kandanadu and Mar Athanasios (Kadavil) in Kottayam on 29 July 1889. He was elevated to Metropolitan Archbishop of Ceylon, Goa and India excluding Malabar.

When Joseph René Vilatte was soliciting for consecration by a bishop with orders recognised by the Catholic Church, he was guided to Alvares, who, jointly with Mar Athanasious, and with the permission of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, consecrated him in 1892 in Colombo, British Ceylon. This became Alvares' cathedral.

Alvares lived in Colombo, in the twin villages of Brahmavar-Calianpur, and finally in Ribandar, where he died of dysentery and was buried.

Pinto, acting in his capacity as the United States Consul, witnessed Alvares' and Vilatte's consecrations.

In Portuguese Goa

Since Alvares was not allowed by the rulers to work freely in Goa. he was mostly based in Canara region of Karnataka with the main base at Brahmavar. He along with Rev. Fr. Roque Zephrin Noronha worked among the people along the west coast of India from Mangalore to Bombay. About 5000 families joined the Orthodox Church. He ordained Rev. Fr. Joseph Kanianthra, Rev. Fr. Lukose of Kannamcote, and Deacon David Kunnamkulam at Brahmawar on 15 October 1911.

Alvares and Pinto continued their efforts to draw many Goans from the Imperial Church and to Orthodoxy. The Brahmavar (Goan) Orthodox Church (BOC) failed in this goal, for outside this group, very few Goans acceded to this sect.

In British Ceylon

He was in Ceylon for more than five years. While there he consecrated Vilatte as Bishop in the presence of Mar Gregorios of Parumala in 1892.

The denomination that consecrated Vilatte was a part of the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church that had a Latin Rite patrimony. V. Nagam Aiya wrote, in Travancore State Manual, that Alvares "describe[d] his Church as the Latin branch of the Syrian Church of Antioch."

The Holy See sought to consolidate two co-existing jurisdictions, the Padroado jurisdiction and the Congregation for Propagation of the Faith jurisdiction. The Padroado was the privilege of patronage extended to Portugal which granted the right of designating candidates for episcopal and other offices and benefices in Africa and the East Indies; in addition, it was an exchange of a portion of ecclesiastical revenues for missionaries and endowments to religious establishments in those territories. In time it was seen by the Holy See as an obstacle to missions: the Portuguese government failed to observe the conditions of the agreement; disagreed about the extent of the patronage by claiming the agreement was restricted by Pope Alexander VI's Bulls of Donation and Treaty of Tordesillas while Rome maintained the agreement was restricted to conquered countries; and, contested papal appoints of missionary bishops or vicars apostolic, made without its consent, in countries which were never subject to its dominion. As part of the transition, churches served by Goan Catholic priests remained under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of the East Indies until 1843. Later, this transition was delayed and extended until 1883-12-31. In British Ceylon, it ended in 1887 with the appearance of a papal decree that placed all Catholics in the country under the exclusive jurisdiction of the bishops of the island. That measure met resistance. Alvares and Dr. Pedro Manoel Lisboa Pinto founded in Goa, Portuguese India, an association for the defence of the Padroado. Then, according to G. Bartas, in Echos d'Orient, they complained that the new diocese and vicariates, were headed, almost exclusively, by European prelates and missionaries, and petitioned the Holy See for the creation of a purely native hierarchy. Bartas did not state if there was a response, but wrote that Alvares settled the difficulty by reinventing himself as the head of his schism, appearing on Ceylon, and settling into the main old Goan Portuguese churches in the village of Parapancandel. Alvares was a Roman Catholic Brahmin. Aiya wrote that Alvares, an educated man and the editor of a Catholic journal, was a priest in the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Goa. Failing to maintain amicable relations with the Patriarch of the East Indies, Alvares left the RCC and joined Mar Dionysius the Metropolitan in Kottayam who consecrated Alvares as bishop. Later, he returned with title of Alvares Mar Julius Archbishop of Ceylon, Goa and the Indies, and involved about 20 parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jaffna and in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Colombo on the island in his schism.

Michael Roberts, in Sri Lanka Journal of Social Science, describes three groups within early nationalism in British Ceylon. The most prominent group, "ultra-moderate constitutionalists", with culture and value system significantly westernised, whose main goal was greater participation in government; the second group, "mild-radicals", represented by leaders like Pinto, was a labour movement with political radicalism and interest in more radical trade unions; the third group, "religio-cultural revitalists", traditional values Sinhalese Buddhists "which expressed militant objection to changes produced by Western penetration." Roberts wrote all three groups interacted with the others and had indigenous, Indian, and Burgher people among members, in a complex social tapestry, whose members also changed group affiliations over time. A strike at the largest publisher in Colombo, influenced by Pinto's propaganda, took place in September 1893. The next day, Pinto became president of the newly formed printers union. "The main grievances of the printers included low pay and bad working and living conditions."

According to Peter-Ben Smit, in Old Catholic and Philippine Independent Ecclesiologies in History, the Union of Utrecht's (UU) International Old Catholic Bishops' Conference (IBC) discussed a ICMoC request for admission in 1902. Smit observed that past "experiences had made [...] the IBC cautious, which in his opinion was a reason for the failure of contacts with groups in [...] Ceylon [...] and other countries to develop into relationships of full communion." According to La Croix, Catholic Messenger of Ceylon reported that the Alvares schism ended in 1902. Bartas did not recount the significance of Alvares' ideology, he only noted that the schism, around 1902, intended to convert corporately, to eastern orthodoxy. The cathedral in Colombo, had one priest, Alvares, fairly advanced in age. He and his parishioners asked the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, in Athens, to accept them under its jurisdiction and to send them an officiating priest preaching in Latin and English. Bartas wrote:

A Greek Orthodox priest, delegated by the Holy Synod in Athens, to celebrate the Latin Mass, and deliver the English sermons, in an independent Catholic Church of Ceylon, in the cathedral of the priest, who became Archbishop of Goa Indo-Ceylon, by the grace of a Jacobite bishop of Malabar; that is the answer to a purely indigenous hierarchy, that [...] Pinto and Alvarez demanded so loudly at the beginning of their schism!

But the Greek Holy Synod, reflected on information provided by the Archimandrite Germain Kazakis, head of the Orthodox settlement of Calcutta in addition to the parishioners' application in which they declared themselves Orthodox but still held Roman Catholic liturgies, sacraments, and devotions. According to Smit, "presumably seeing an analogy between the respective emergences of the two churches," Stephen Silva, the ICMoC secretary, complained to Gregorio Aglipay of the Philippine Independent Church in 1903 that the ICMoC "cannot get sufficient priests to work independently of Rome." Bartas wrote, in 1904, that the Greek Holy Synod "will undoubtedly continue to defer its response" under these conditions. Smit mentioned that the ICMoC also failed to create "a relationship with the Greek Orthodox Church in the 1910s." In 1913, Adrian Fortescue described Alvares' faction, in The Lesser Eastern Churches, as "chiefly famous for the begging letters they write and the doubt they cause to people who receive these letters as to who exactly they may be."


Alvares was a scholar, man of high principles, and had an impressing personality. He opened a college where Goan priests were teaching Portuguese, Latin, French, and Philosophy. In 1912, Alvares opened an English School in Panaji. Both operated for a short time.

Social worker

At that time Goa was frequently affected by epidemic like malaria, typhoid, smallpox, cholera, and plague. Alvares published a pamphlet on the treatment of cholera. He was so concerned about shortage of food in Goa that he appealed to the people to produce cheaper food. He published a booklet about the cultivation of cassava.

Apostle of charity

In 1871 he started a charitable association in Panaji to render help to the poor, beginning with wandering beggars. After a few years he extended the association to other cities in Goa. During the last ten years of his life he concentrated his activities in Panaji. His home accommodated the poor and destitute as well as leprosy, tuberculosis patients. He was a beggar without an income. One day Alvares requested a shopkeeper for contribution, but the shopkeeper spat in the bowl. Without getting angry Alvares said, "All right, I shall keep this for me. Now, give something for the poor." The shopkeeper contributed generously.

Patriot and saint

This designation was given to Alvares by Goan historians. After joining the Orthodox Church, Alvares was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. He was persecuted by the Catholic Church and the Portuguese Government. Though he was advised by some of his old friends to reunite with the Catholic Church, especially when he was very sick, he refused and stuck to his Orthodox faith.


Alvares embraced Malankara Orthodox Church. He was excommunicated and persecuted. He was arrested, stripped of his episcopal vestments and taken through the street in his underwear to the police lock-up and placed into a filthy prison cell without a bed or chair. He was forcibly deprived of his cross and the ring, the episcopal insigne he was wearing. He was beaten and presented in the court. But the government could not prove the allegations and he was acquitted. After a few days, he was arrested again and charged with the offence of high treason, but this time too the Justice found him innocent. He was no longer allowed to use his episcopal vestments, and wore a black robe. When he was persecuted, none of the Orthodox Church people were nearby because he has not support or person in Goa from Orthodox Church.


Alvares died 23 September 1923, of dysentery, in a Ribandar hospital, a charitable institution. He wished to be buried by Orthodox designates, he was specific not to have any Catholic priest for the same. The citizen committee led by the Chief Justice, arranged a grand funeral. His body lay in state in the Municipal Hall for 24 hours. The newspapers were full of articles and obituaries about Alvares. Though Alvares was considered an enemy by the government, the Governor General sent his representative. Thousands of people especially poor and beggars paid their last respects. Funeral speeches were made by high dignitaries. The day after his death, a funeral procession wound through all the main roads of Panaji and ended in a secluded corner of St. Inez cemetery where his body was laid to rest, without any funeral rites.


Four years later, in 1927, his bones were collected by his friends and admirers, placed in a lead box and reburied, under a marble slab with the inscription "Em Memoria De Padre Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvares, Diue [sic] Foi Mui Humanitario Missionario E Um Grade [sic] Patriota" (In memory of priest Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvares, who was very humanitarian missionary and a great patriot) and the largest cross in the cemetery.

For forty years nobody visited the grave. Metropolitan Mathews Mar Athanasios, of the Outside Kerala diocese, inquired and found the grave during his visit to Goa in 1967. A small church was constructed in Ribandar and, in 1979, Alvares' remains were disinterred and placed in the church by Metropolitan Philipose Mar Theophilose, of the Bombay diocese.

When the St. Mary's church was reconstructed in the same place, Alvares' remains were moved to the present ossuary which was specially made on the side of the altar, by Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II, Catholicos of the East, on 6 October 2001.

Alvares' remains are entombed at St. Mary's Orthodox church in Ribandar. Although congregation is small, the BOC has survived almost a century after Alvares' death. His dukrono, a memorial feast, is celebrated by St. Mary's Orthodox Syrian church in Ribandar, yearly during the week of 23 September.

Works or publications

  • Universal Supremacy in the Church of Christ ... Abridged from the original in Portuguese. Colombo: Clifton Press. 1898. OCLC 771049027. 
  • Directions for the Treatment of Cholera ... (pamphlet) (2nd ed.). Ceylon: Victoria Press. 1896. OCLC 771049026. 
  • Newspapers

    Alvares started a number of periodicals; most of them were educative and supportive for the right of the public. He was a critic of the government, most of them were banned and forced to stop publications after few years.

  • A Cruz (in Portuguese)
  • A Verdade (in Portuguese)
  • O Brado Indiano (in Portuguese)
  • O Progresso de Goa (in Portuguese)
  • Times of Goa (in Portuguese)
  • References

    Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvares Wikipedia

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