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Dalai Lama appreciates book on Christian missionaries in Tibet


By C. M. Paul
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
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Kolkata, Nov. 12.  Darjeeling, 12 November 2020: Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has lauded a Salesian priest's book on the history of the Catholic Church in Tibet.

''His Holiness was very interested to know the history of the missionaries to Tibet and the hazardous journeys and experiences they endured crossing the difficult terrains of Tibet,'' says an email letter from the Dalai Lama's secretary Chhime R. Chhoekyapa to Father Tomy Augustine, rector of Salesian College in Sonada, West Bengal.
The book, ''Cross on the Roof,'' a brief history of the Catholic Church in Tibet and Nepal, was authored by Salesian Father George Thirumalachalil. It was published the Salesian College in Sonada, West Bengal, in collaboration the Nepal Don Bosco Society, Kathmandu.

The book was released on line October 18 from Kolkata, Siliguri, Sonada, Darjeeling, and Miao (Arunachal Pradesh), besides Kathmandu and Rome.

The 235-page book traces the history of Church in Tibet, Nepal and Eastern India bordering Nepal, North Bengal and Sikkim.

A copy of the book was sent to the Dalai Lama's office in Dharmasala in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

Chhime's November 12 letter says the current Dalai Lama, who is the 14th Tibetan spiritual leader, in 1994 visited the birthplace of Father Francesco Orazio della Penna di Billi (1680- 1745), the pioneer Capuchin missionary to Tibet.

Again in 2005, he visited a monastery of Capuchins near the city of Rimini, Italy, where an exhibition on the history of the missionaries to Tibet was held.

The current Dalai Lama also recalled the close contact one of his predecessors, the Dalai Lama VII (1708-1757), had with Pope Clement XII (1652-1740).

The book narrates how Father Orazio spent 33 of his 65 years in the Tibet mission. In 1717 he spent nine months in the Sera Monastery, in Lhasa, studying the Tibetan language. There he began compiling a Tibetan-Italian and Italian-Tibetan dictionary which he finished (33,000 words) and published in 1732.

He also translated a number of Tibetan books, including The Life of the Buddha, and Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Father Orazio spent about a decade alone in Lhasa with another Capuchin Father Giovacchino. Then, he spent two years at the Kathmandu mission before returning to Rome. Father Orazio returned to Lhasa in 1739 and was forced to leave Tibet for Nepal in 1745.

Chhime recalled his visit to Salesian College at Sonada in 1970s when he was a student of St Joseph's School, North Point in Darjeeling.

Sonada has a Tibetan settlement since 1965 spread over 21 acres of land. It is situated on NH 55 between Kurseong and Darjeeling just 2 km after Salesian College. The settlement has a Representative Office of the Department of Home, Central Tibetan Administration, Dharmsala catering to some 260 people. END

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