Providing Livelihood for the Native Catholics
The Father of Christians and support strategies for converts (Goa, c. 1540-1710)
The office of the Father of Christians was created in the 1530s, with the purpose of instituting a person responsible for caring for catechumens and converts who lived in the State of India. The position of the Father of Christians was instituted in a context marked by systematic efforts to Christianize native populations through granting privileges to converts while restricting or harassing local non-Christian populations. The purpose of this article is to analyze a facet of the work of the Father of Christians: his efforts to support catechumens and converts, “putting them in some public posts or with people who could help them,” as the 1595 Instruction emphasized. The following documentary sources will be analyzed to achieve this objective: the laws of the State of India, the correspondence exchanged between the Fathers of Christians, the kings of Portugal and the viceroys, and dozens of records (produced between the last quarter of the 17th century and the first decade of the 18th century) that demonstrate to whom such catechumens and neophytes were given to serve and what kinds of trades they would be taught.
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