Carteggio inedito di Padre Anselmo da Ragusa, O.M.C. Prefetto della Missione del Tibet (1761-1769)
Garbini, Riccardo (2001) Carteggio inedito di Padre Anselmo da Ragusa, O.M.C. Prefetto della Missione del Tibet (1761-1769). Annali dell’Università degli studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”. Rivista del Dipartimento di Studi Asiatici e del Dipartimento di Studi e Ricerche su Africa e Paesi Arabi, 1999 (59). pp. 183-210. ISSN 0393-3180
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Among all the Catholic missionaries sent to Asia, The Capuchins played an important role in the Indian subcontinent. Settled in the Kathmandu Valley in the eighteenth century, some of them (the prefetti) took charge of guiding the Catholic mission and striving proselytism in Nepal and Tibet. Father Anselmo da Ragusa (Ragusa 1716-1776), despite having been “perfect” for eleven years, has left meagre notice of his missionary activities. We know that after reaching India in 1750 And being posted in Kathmandu, he was assigned to the “Tibetan Mission”, of which he became the seventh responsible in 1758. After eleven years, in 1769, he was relieved from his office because of his bad health, and allowed to go back to Italy.
This article deals with six unpublished letters of Father Anselmo written between 1754 and 1766: one belongs to a private archive; two are kept in the central archive of the Capuchin branch of the Franciscan order in Rome, and three in the Sacrum Collegium de Propaganda Fide, also in Rome.
The analysis of these letters makes us hear the echo of several events of contemporary Indo-Nepalese history through some enlightening details. The letter dated 1754 witnesses the arrival in Kathmundu from through the Kingdom of Ladakh of Buddhist statue followed by a set of eleven images (nine gods and two goddesses). The scandalised reaction of the father Anselmo would have brought to the impalement of three Buddhist leaders. Not considering the propaganda and the biased viewpoint of the witness, we can appreciate from the reported event the political strategy, of an alliance between Nepal, Kashmir and Ladakh promoted by the Tibetan Kingdom mainly through the monk Ka’t’og Rig `dzin, an indefatigable traveller and promoter of the Buddhist religion in these countries (in 1751 he had gone again to Nepal to carry out repairs in the Tibetan at the Nepalese court following the abdication of Jaya Prakash Malla in 1754, as well as on the revenge of the king against the rebelled nobleman headed by Taudhik. In addition to this, the correspondence reveals in several passages the strained relations between the missionaries, supporting the view expressed by Petech on Father Anselmo’s character as Seccamente autoritario, “drily authoritarian” (Petech 1952-56: I,lxvii).
The analysis of father Anselmo’s handwriting clearly shows that he was the author of the first part of the Repertorio de’ Missionari de Propaganda Fide della Missione del Tibet, started in 1766 and kept at the present in the central archive of the Capuchin branch of the Franciscan order in Rome.
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