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Joseph Vaz

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Collection: 1651 Births, 1711 Deaths, 17Th-Century Roman Catholic Priests, 17Th-Century Venerated Christians, 18Th-Century Roman Catholic Priests, 18Th-Century Venerated Christians, Beatifications by Pope John Paul II, Burials in Sri Lanka, Canonizations by Pope Francis, Christian Missionaries in Sri Lanka, Indian Beatified People, Indian Christian Missionaries, Indian Roman Catholic Priests, Konkani People, Oratorian Saints, Oratorians, People from Goa, Roman Catholic Missionaries
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Joseph Vaz

St. Joseph Vaz, C.O.
Apostle of Sri Lanka
Priest and missionary
Born (1651-04-21)21 April 1651
Benaulim, Goa, Portuguese India, Portuguese Empire
Died 16 January 1711(1711-01-16) (aged 59)
Kandy, Kingdom of Kandy
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
(India, Sri Lanka and the Congregation of the Oratory)
Beatified 21 January 1995, Galle Face Green, Colombo, Sri Lanka by Pope John Paul II
Canonized 14 January 2015, Galle Face Green, Colombo, Sri Lanka by Pope Francis
Major shrine St. Joseph Vaz Shrine,
Mudipu, Bantwal, Karnataka, India
Feast 16 January
Patronage Sri Lanka

St. Joseph Vaz, CO,(Konkani: Sant Zuze Vaz; Portuguese: São José Vaz; Sinhalese: ශාන්ත ජුසේ වාස් පියතුමා Santha Juse Vaz Piyathuma; Tamil: புனித ஜோசப் வாஸ்), 21 April 1651 – 16 January 1711) was an Oratorian priest and missionary in Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon.

Vaz arrived in Ceylon during the Dutch occupation, when the Dutch were imposing Calvinism as the official religion after taking over from the Portuguese. He travelled throughout the island bringing the Eucharist and the sacraments to clandestine groups of Catholics. Later in his mission, he found shelter in the Kingdom of Kandy where he was able to work freely. By the time of his death, Vaz had managed to rebuild the Catholic Church on the island.

As a result of his labors, Vaz is known as the Apostle of Ceylon. On 21 January 1995, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Colombo. He was canonized on 14 January 2015 by Pope Francis in an open-air Mass ceremony at the Galle Face Green in Colombo.[1]

Keith Vaz, the Member of Parliament for Leicester East, is a distant relative of the missionary.[2]


  • Early life 1
  • Ministry in Canara (1681–1687) 2
  • Oratorian 3
  • Sri Lanka mission (1687–1711) 4
    • Jaffna mission 4.1
    • Kandy mission 4.2
    • Batticaloa mission 4.3
  • Death 5
  • Stages of canonization 6
    • Servant of God 6.1
    • Venerable 6.2
    • Blessed 6.3
    • Saint 6.4
  • Legacy 7
  • References 8
  • Bibliography 9
    • Primary 9.1
    • Secondary 9.2
  • External links 10

Early life

The third of six children, Vaz was born in 1651 at Benaulim, his mother's village in Goa, then known as Portuguese India, part of the Portuguese Empire.[3] His parents, Cristóvão Vaz and Maria de Miranda, were devout Catholics.[4] Cristóvão belonged to a prominent Naik family of Sancoale.[5] He was baptised on the eighth day at the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist, Benaulim by its pastor, Jacinto Pereira.

Vaz attended the elementary school in Sancoale. He learned Portuguese in Sancoale and Latin in Benaulim. He was a bright pupil and respected by his teachers and fellow students.[3] He made such rapid progress in his studies that his father decided to send him to the city of Goa for further studies; where he did a course in rhetoric and humanities at the Jesuit college of St. Paul. He further studied philosophy and theology at the St. Thomas Aquinas' Academy of the Dominicans, in Goa city.[3]

In 1675, Vaz was ordained a deacon for the Archdiocese of Goa by Custódio de Pinho, the Vicar Apostolic of Bijapur and Golconda.[3] In 1676, he was ordained a priest by the Archbishop of Goa, António Brandão, S.O.Cist. Soon after his ordination, he started going barefoot to live like the poor and acquired a reputation as a popular preacher and confessor. He opened a Latin school in Sancoale for prospective seminarians. In 1677 he consecrated himself as a "slave of Mary", sealing it with a document known as the "Deed of Bondage".[3]

Ministry in Canara (1681–1687)

Vaz wanted to serve as a missionary in Ceylon, and therefore presented his request to go there to the cathedral chapter, which was administering the diocese following the vacancy created by the death of Brandão on 6 July 1678. However, the cathedral chapter proposed to him to go to Canara instead, where the Padroado authorities in Goa were in conflict with the local authorities belonging to the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide, the Vatican agency for missionary efforts worldwide.[3] Vaz was appointed the Vicar Forane of Canara by the Padroado in 1681, and sent with the purpose of asserting their jurisdiction against the Propaganda Fide.[6] The chapter also gave him the esteemed title of "Frame of Canara".[3] Upon his arrival, he found the situation of the Roman Catholic Church there to be highly explosive.[3]

The Padroado authorities in Goa were at conflict with those of the Propaganda Fide in Canara, led by the already incumbent Vicar Forane, Bishop Thomas de Castro.[3] The source of the conflict was that De Castro's appointment as Vicar Forane of Canara by Pope Clement X on 30 August 1675 was not recognised by the preceding Padroado archbishop. Consequently, they did not cede the jurisdiction to him despite the pope's letter of appointment.[3]

The Padroado–Propaganda conflict which ensued divided the Catholics of Canara into two sides—those who recognised the authority of the Padroado archbishop in Goa versus those who supported De Castro.[6] Those who recognised the authority of the Padroado were excommunicated by De Castro, while those who recognised the authority of the Propaganda were excommunicated by the Padroado authorities at Goa. Both groups were forbidden from receiving sacraments from the priests of the rival group, on penalty of excommunication.[6]

In a letter dated 14 September 1681, Vaz lamented:

"Many in fact believe that the Catholic Church is divided, and that we and the Bishop's priests are not children of the same Mother Church; and that our doctrines and our sacraments are different; and what the ones do, the others destroy. Thus the Catholic Church is much despised and is not acceptable."[6]

With great diplomacy and humility, Vaz met De Castro at Mangalore and after having convinced himself of the legitimacy of the documents, brought about a truce until a direction was received from the new pope, Innocent XI.[6] In light of the fact that the bishop had legitimate authority, Vaz recognised his authority and while continuing to adhere to the Padroado system, zealously worked for the religious welfare of the people.[3] The bishop further agreed to delegate jurisdiction to him conditionally. Vaz often spoke to him and pleaded with him not to issue so many excommunications, but to wait for a final decision from the pope. He pointed out that the Hindus were scandalised and the Christians bewildered by these arguments.[3]

During his stay, Vaz undertook serious missionary activities in Canara from 1681 to 1684, carrying out a lot of missionary work in Mangalore, Basroor, Barcoor, Moolki, Kallianpur and other areas, and reviving the spirits and faith of the widely scattered Roman Catholic community.He reconstructed the Rosario Cathedral in Mangalore and built new churches at Onore, Basroor, Cundapore, and Gangolim.[6] He also set up small schools in some of the villages with the co-operation of their residents.[3]

Vaz's most important contribution, however, was the establishment of a large number of Irmidades (Confraternities) throughout Canara, where he would periodically celebrate festive occasions with great pomp. Vaz was compelled to do so due to a shortage of priests, and as such an Irmidade brought together the Catholics of a place where there was no church or resident priest.[3] To this end, he constructed small huts and asked the local Catholics to gather there and recite their prayers. This greatly helped to keep alive and encourage the religious fervor for Christianity.[7]

In his short stay, Vaz acquired a great and saintly reputation. He did yeoman service to the cause of the upliftment of the downtrodden.[8] Many miracles are attributed to him.[6] A local legend has it that while serving as parish priest of Our Lady of Mercy parish, Paneer, a few kilometres from Mudipu, Bantwal, a few Hindus arrived in the night, asking him to accompany them to administer final sacraments to a sick parishioner in the neighbourhood of Mudipu.[9]

The men had conspired to slay the priest, due to his tireless missionary activities. When they reached the top of the Hill, the men tried to kill him. The serene Vaz knelt down on the rock and held his stick straight on the ground. A light flashed in their midst and the men could see water gushing from the spots where he knelt. Owing to this miracle, the men fled from the scene and Vaz returned to the parish unharmed. A shrine dedicated to him was constructed at that very site at Mudipu. It is visited annually by thousands of pilgrims and devotees, seeking blessings and cures for various ailments.[9]

The new archbishop, Manuel de Sousa e Menezes, arrived in Goa and was displeased with Vaz on account of the agreement he had made with De Castro.[3] When Vaz sought permission to return to Goa, the request was refused by the archbishop. After the archbishop's death in 1684, however, the cathedral chapter of Goa allowed him to return to Goa, replacing him with Nicholas de Gamhoa, one of his former assistants.


When Vaz returned to Goa, he spent his time preaching in the surrounding villages. He also joined a group of priests of the archdiocese who had decided to live together in a religious community. The group was formally erected as a community of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri on 25 September 1685, the first native religious community in the diocese. They took charge of the Church of the Holy Cross of Miracles, where they established their residence.[10] Vaz was elected first provost of the community.

Sri Lanka mission (1687–1711)

Hearing of the distressful situation of the Catholics of Ceylon who reportedly had no priests for many years, Vaz desired to go to their rescue. But instead he was named Superior of the Canara Mission, a post which he occupied for three years. In 1686, Vaz obtained permission to give up this office and to proceed to Ceylon. He stopped in the Keladi Kingdom in 1686–1687 for a few months on his way to Ceylon, where helped by his companions, he attended to the spiritual needs of the local Christians. Disguised as a mendicant, he reached the port of Tuticorin on Easter Sunday 1687.

Jaffna mission

On landing at Jaffna, Vaz found a strong Calvinist presence. As Catholic priests were banned by the Dutch authorities, he had to travel under the guise of a mendicant and to work in secret. He travelled barefoot as an Indian sanyasi.

Vaz suffered from acute dysentery, contracted from the terrible travelling conditions. Upon recovering, he began contacting Catholics and hiding from the Dutch. He was taken in and ministered to his secret flock by night. In 1689, taking up his residence in a village called Sillalai where the Catholics were numerous and resolute, Vaz succeeded in reviving the spirit of the faithful. In 1690, he was forced to change his quarters for Puttalam, where he worked with great success for a whole year. Portuguese or Portuguese creole was the common language of the local Catholic communities those days -as it was the case till recently among Burghers- so communication was not a problem for padre José Vaz.

Kandy mission

In 1692, Vaz settled in Kandy, the capital of the independent Kingdom of Kandy, as his centre of operations. On his arrival, he was deemed to be a Portuguese spy and was imprisoned with two other Catholics. There he learned Sinhala, the local language. They were left alone by the prison guards as long as they didn't try to escape and he built a hut-church and later a proper church dedicated to Our Lady, and began converting other prisoners.

Making the most of his new-found freedom, Vaz made a mission visit to the Dutch-controlled areas and visited Catholics in smallpox broke out in Kandy. His work with the sick convinced the king to allow Vaz freedom in his labours.

Vaz carried his mission to the main centres of the island. Between 1687 to 1711, he was at the head of a group of Goan Bamonn priests who under his leadership and inspiration, mixed and moved about under cover sustaining the persecuted Roman Catholic population in Ceylon.[11]

Vaz returned to Kandy in 1699 with a fellow priest, Joseph de Carvalho, who had been expelled at the instigation of Jacome Gonsalves. Vaz humbly declined the offer made to him in 1705, to be the bishop and first Vicar Apostolic of Ceylon, preferring to remain a simple missionary. For this reason, he is often depicted with a mitre beside him.[12]

Batticaloa mission

Joseph Vaz visited to Batticaloa in 1710 in order to revive the Catholic faith during the time of Dutch persecution against Catholics. He visited a church in Thandavenveli, now known as Church of Our Lady of Presentation, where he was tied to a tree and beaten. Again, he made a second visit to Batticaloa for reviving the Catholic faith and returned to Kandy.[13][14]


King Vimaldharna Surya II, Vaz's patron, died in 1707, but Vira Narendra Sinha, his successor, proved to be an even greater supporter. New missionaries arrived in 1708. In 1710, despite health problems, Vaz took another apostolic trip. On his return, he fell ill. He recovered from a series of infections and fevers, but was left weakened. He undertook eight days of spiritual exercises prescribed by the Oratorian Rule, but before the seventh day he died at Kandy on 16 January 1711, aged 59.

Vaz's work was carried forward by Jacome Gonsalves.

Stages of canonization

Servant of God



The subject of his beatification was first urged upon the consideration of the Holy See about 1737 by Francisco de Vasconcellos, S.J., Bishop of Cochin, who also claimed jurisdiction over Ceylon.

The process was begun in Goa, and a number of miracles were registered. But the non-fulfilment of certain essential formalities led Pope Benedict XIV to cancel the proceedings, with an order, however, that they should be re-instituted. The Apostolic Delegate of the East Indies, Ladislaus Zaleski (1852–1925), who was resident in Kandy, kept hearing reports of this saintly priest. He did his own research about him, was a great admirer of Joseph Vaz and published a multi-issued biography of him. The beatification process was resumed later and completed in 1953 by the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman. On 21 January 1995, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Colombo, Sri lanka.


In October 2013, a Diocesan Inquiry of a miracle attributed to Vaz took place.[15] In November 2013, Patriarch Filipe Neri Ferrao stated that the cause for Vaz's canonisation had reached a 'crucial stage'.[16] The Pope approved the vote by the Ordinary Session of Cardinals and Bishops in favor of canonization of the Indian-born priest and decided to summon a Consistory shortly after.[17][18][19]

Pope Francis waived the requirement for a second miracle, generally a requirement for canonization. The Pope used the same process he used to canonize St. John XXIII without a second miracle attributed to his intercession.[20]

Joseph Vaz was canonized by Pope Francis on 14 January 2015 in Colombo at Golface , Sri Lanka. Saint Joseph Vaz is the first saint to have been canonised in Sri Lanka, the first saint of Sri Lanka (having died there) and first originally from the area of Goa, India.[21][22]

The canonization of Joseph Vaz, was celebrated at the St Joseph Vaz Shrine, Mudipu, Mangalore, furing 14-16 January 2015, as he was the first priest from the Konkan Coast to be canonized.[23]


So far the only school named in honor of Vaz is the Joseph Vaz College of Wennappuwa, Sri Lanka, which was founded in January 1935 by the Marist Brothers (initiated 1933).

In Sri Lanka there is a parish dedicated to Vaz in Mudipu and a chapel under his patronage in a remote village called Aluthwewa, about 10 miles off Galewela, in the Parish of Wahakotte. There is a small community of Christians who are migrant farmers from Wahakotte there who brought the devotion to him.[24]


  1. ^ "Goan-born Joseph Vaz granted sainthood by Pope Francis in Sri Lanka". First Post. 14 January 2015. Retrieved 14 January 2015. 
  2. ^ . Catholic Herald 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Pinto, Pius Fidelis. History of Christians in Coastal Karnataka, 1500–1763 AD, Samanvaya Prakashan, 1999, pp. 210–212
  4. ^ Prabhu, Alan Machado. Sarasvati's Children: A History of the Mangalorean Christians, I.J.A. Publications, 1999, p. 158
  5. ^ Costa, Cosme Jose. Life and achievements of blessed Joseph Vaz: Apostle of Canara and Sri Lanka, Pilar Publications, 1996, p. 10.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Sarasvati's Children: A History of the Mangalorean Christians, Alan Machado Prabhu, I.J.A. Publications, 1999, p. 159
  7. ^ Pinto p. 227.
  8. ^ Pinto p. 216.
  9. ^ a b "Bantwale, Stanley. "Mangalore: Way of Cross at Blessed Joseph Vaz Hill Shrine",, 29 March 2010". 
  10. ^ Prabhu pp. 114–115.
  11. ^ Prabhu p. 115.
  12. ^ , January 14, 2011Times of IndiaNaik, Rajtilak. "Blessed Joseph Vaz, a missionary model for all time",
  13. ^ "Newsletter: The Two New Dioceses of Batticaloa & Trincomalee" (PDF).  
  14. ^ "புனிதர் ஜோசப் வாஸ்". Vatican Radio. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  15. ^ , October 7, 2013"Daily NewsOn the road to Sainthood", "". 
  16. ^ , November 19, 2013The Times of India"Archbishop: Blessed Joseph Vaz canonization at crucial stage",
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Herald: Pope approves canonisation of Goa born Bl Joseph Vaz". oHeraldo. 
  19. ^ "Pope Francis approved the cannonisation of Blessed Joseph Vaz as Saint". 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Mudipu church to mark sainthood of Joseph Vaz" (Mangalore). Times of India. 9 January 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  24. ^ "Blessed Joseph Vaz - Apostle of Sri Lanka". Diocese of Kandy. 



  • Letters of Blessed Joseph Vaz: Son of Goa, Apostle of Canara and Sri Lanka. Ed. Cosme Jose Vaz Costa. Goa: Eremito M. Rebelo, 2011.


  • Mascarenhas, Michael, SDB. Through Storm and Tempest: A Biography of Blessed Joseph Vaz, Apostle of Canara and Sri Lanka (1651–1711) and an Account of the Historic Exploits of the First Oratorians (Goa...) in Sri Lanka. Mumbai: Tej-prasarini Don Bosco Communications, 2001.
  • Mascarenhas, Michael, SDB. Bhaktivant Jose Vazachem Caritravarnan: Kanara and Sri Lankecho preshit (1651–1711) ani Goemcya pratham Oratorian Sansthen Sri Lankat kel'lea caritrik missao vavracho vivar. Tr. into Konkani (Kannada script) by Reginald Pinto, Santosh Menezes, OFM Cap. and Victor Rodrigues. Mumbai: Tej-prasarini Don Bosco Communications, 2002.
  • Mascarenhas, Michael, SDB. Vadoll ani tufananantlean: Goencho bhagevont put Padri Juze Vazachea jivitachi kotha. Translation into Konkani (Roman script) by Thomas Misquith and Jess Fernandes. Panjim: Boskon Communications, 2010.
  • Mascarenhas, Michael, SDB. Vadalvara va tufanatun: Dhanyavadit Joseph Vaz yanche jivan caritra. Translation into Marathi by Anil Dabre. Mumbai: Tej-prasarini Don Bosco Communications, 2006.
  • Cabral e Sa, Mario, and Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues, Great Goans. Vol. 1: Abbe Faria, Fr Jose Vaz, Lata Mangeshkar, T.B. Cunha. N.N.A.P. Publications, 1986.
  • Don Peter, W.L.A. Studies in Ceylon Church History. Colombo: Catholic Press, 1963.
  • Don Peter, W.L.A. Historical Gleanings. Colombo, n.p., 1992.
  • Gomes, Manuel. Blessed Joseph Vaz: A Creative Missionary Ahead of His Time. Old Goa: Manuel P. Gomes, Pastoral Institute St Pius X, 2010.
  • Goonetileke, H.A.I. A Bibliography of Ceylon. 5 vols. Zug: Switzerland, 1975–1983.
  • Pereira, Denis G. Blessed Joseph Vaz, the Man, His Mission, His Message. Bopmbay: Pauline, c. 1996.
  • Perera, S.G. Life of Blessed Joseph Vaz: Apostle of Sri Lanka. Ontario: Humanics Universal Inc., 2011. [Reprinted in Goa by Eremito M. Rebelo.]
  • Perera, S.G., ed. The Oratorian Mission in Ceylon: Historical Documents relating to the Life and Labours of the Venerable Father Joseph Vaz, his Companions and Successors. Colombo: Caxton Printing Works, 1936.
  • Perniola, V. The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka: The Dutch Period. 2 vols. Dehiwala: Tissara Prakasakayo, 1983.
  • Perniola, V., tr. The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka. The Portuguese Period: Original Documents. Ceylon Historical Journal monograph series 15–16. Dehiwala: Tissara Prakasakayo 1989–(1991). [1:77.]
  • Wickremasinghe, Martin. Landmarks of Sinhalese Literature. Colombo: Gunasena, 1948/1963.
  • Gomes, Luis. Boddvo Iadnik.
  • Costa, Cosme. A letter from Joseph Vaz.
  • Do Rego, Sebastiao. Vida do Veneravel Padre Jose Vaz.

External links

  • Catholic Encyclopedia: Blessed Joseph Vaz
  • Saint Joseph Vaz
  • Blessed Joseph Vaz – Apostle of Sri Lanka
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