The Cross on the Roof

17 November 2020

A comprehensive origin and history of the Catholic Church in Tibet and Nepal titled ‘The Cross on the Roof’ by Fr. George Thirumalachalil sdb is published. It’s the story of expeditions of missionaries’ attempt from the eighteenth century to take the Gospel to Tibet, the stronghold of Buddhism and to Nepal, the only Hindu Kingdom in the world.

The book narrates how Father Orazio della Penna spent 33 of his 65 years in the Tibet mission. In 1703 ‘Mission to Tibet’ was officially established by the Propaganda and as many as twelve missionary expeditions were sent out by Propaganda to Tibet between 1704 and 1745 - when the Capuchin Missionaries were forced to leave Tibet.

In 1717 Fr Orazio spent nine months in the Sera Monastery, in Lhasa, studying the Tibetan language. There he began compiling a Tibetan-Italian 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.

The loss of Tibet resulted in gain for Nepal. As many as four mission stations were established in Nepal by the Capuchin missionaries between 1715 and 1769 when the Capuchin missionaries were forced out of the country.

In his book, Fr George, a veteran missionary in the Nepali region, traces  the early attempts especially by the Capuchin missionaries to establish the Church in Tibet and Nepal and explores the reasons why the missionaries were  sent out of the country.  The Jesuits, the Capuchins, the missionaries of the Paris Foreign Mission, the Canon Regulars have in succession attempted to take the Cross to the Roof of the world with little success.

The Salesians who began the mission in Nepal in 1992 and well established today with 21 confreres of five Indian provinces serving 7 presences can perhaps attempt for the same and bring to fulfillment the dreams of generations of missionaries. The line that Don Bosco saw in his dream joining Kolkata with Peking passes through Tibet! The Salesians in Nepal have resolved to contribute and spread the Christian literature in Nepal.

The release of the book was a colorful ceremony that took place on 18 October online.

253 pages, Salesian Publication (Salesian College in Sonada)

Further information


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