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Open Access “Infidels” at Home

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“Infidels” at Home

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Jesuits and Muslim Slaves in Seventeenth-Century Naples and Spain

image of Journal of Jesuit Studies

Drawing from published and unpublished Jesuit sources—treatises, handbooks, reports, and letters—this article explores the Jesuit apostolate to Muslim slaves in Naples and in different cities of Spain during the seventeenth century. Under the blanket of missionary rhetoric, a Jesuit viewpoint not otherwise available is found in these sources, which highlight their missionary methods and strategies and clarify the special status of the apostolate to Muslim slaves in the Jesuit mind. While Europe was the setting of missions to Muslim slaves, and the missions were considered a variation of the so-called popular missions, they were often charged with a deeper symbolic value. Because the missionaries’ interlocutors were “infidels,” so different in their culture and in their habits, Jesuits used forms of accommodation extremely similar to those they used in the missions overseas. Converting Muslim slaves in Naples or in Spain was conceived by Jesuits as an alternative and effective way to go on a mission “even among Turks,” as the Jesuit Formula of the Institute stated, despite never leaving European kingdoms for Ottoman lands. Located between the missions overseas, where Jesuits converted the “infidels” in distant lands, and the missions in Europe, where they attempted to save the souls of baptized people who lacked religious education, were “other Indies,” where Jesuits could encounter, convert, and baptize the “infidels” at home.

Affiliations: 1: Assistant Professor of Catholic Studies, DePaul University, ecolombo@depaul.edu

Drawing from published and unpublished Jesuit sources—treatises, handbooks, reports, and letters—this article explores the Jesuit apostolate to Muslim slaves in Naples and in different cities of Spain during the seventeenth century. Under the blanket of missionary rhetoric, a Jesuit viewpoint not otherwise available is found in these sources, which highlight their missionary methods and strategies and clarify the special status of the apostolate to Muslim slaves in the Jesuit mind. While Europe was the setting of missions to Muslim slaves, and the missions were considered a variation of the so-called popular missions, they were often charged with a deeper symbolic value. Because the missionaries’ interlocutors were “infidels,” so different in their culture and in their habits, Jesuits used forms of accommodation extremely similar to those they used in the missions overseas. Converting Muslim slaves in Naples or in Spain was conceived by Jesuits as an alternative and effective way to go on a mission “even among Turks,” as the Jesuit Formula of the Institute stated, despite never leaving European kingdoms for Ottoman lands. Located between the missions overseas, where Jesuits converted the “infidels” in distant lands, and the missions in Europe, where they attempted to save the souls of baptized people who lacked religious education, were “other Indies,” where Jesuits could encounter, convert, and baptize the “infidels” at home.

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/content/journals/10.1163/22141332-00102003
2014-03-12
2017-09-19

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