Jesuits in Indonesia, 1546–2015
(10,521 words)

Karel Steenbrink

Last modified: December 2016


The Portuguese, as part of their journey eastwards in search of spices for trade and souls to be converted to Christianity, conquered Malacca in 1511 and signed their first treaty with the sultan of Ternate, an island in the Moluccas, in 1522.1 Yet with respect to their Christian missionary objectives, the Portuguese seem to have arrived fifty years too late: between 1450 and 1475, the four kingdoms of the Moluccas embraced Islam at the suggestion of preachers who hailed from the western coast of Sumatra and the northeast Javanese Muslim harbors of Demak, Japara, and Gresik.

The Portuguese were nevertheless able to exert influence upon the region, sometimes aided by force. In 1534, for instance, the captain of the Portuguese fortress of Ternate accused the newly ascendant Sultan Tabarija (r.1521–42) of betrayal, whereupon he sent the local ruler into exile in Goa, India. The sultan was baptized there in 1537, through his friendship with Jordão de Freitas (active in mid-sixteenth century), taking the name “Dom Manuel.” Two more of Ternate’s exiled noblemen were baptized the following year. Melchior Nunes Barreto (1520–71), the vice-provincial of the Society of Jesus in India, suggested that these conversions were undertaken for utilitarian reasons, writing in a 1566 document that they took place “to gain the favour of the successive Captains of the Portuguese and thereby their protection against the (other) Muslims.”2 The facts seem to support his assessment, as by 1544, the newly baptized Manuel was “nominated a vassal” of the king of Portugal and, along with Freitas, set out for Ternate to resume his authority. His son and chosen successor—Sultan Hairun (r.1534–70), who had remained a Muslim—was sent to Malacca. As it turned out, Dom Manuel died before reaching Ternate (on June 30, 1545), and so Hairun returned to his sultanate under the protection of a new Portuguese governor. Nonetheless, this historical incident set the context for the arrival of the Jesuits to Indonesia and underlines their role as part of the Portuguese colonial agenda, which sought not only to expand the kingdom’s trade and power but also to spread the Christian religion, with the specific objective of converting local Muslim rulers.


The Legacy of Francis Xavier in the Moluccas: Catholic Ambon versus Muslims in Ternate and Tidore

The first Jesuit to arrive in the Moluccas would also become its most famous. Francis Xavier (1506–52) landed in Goa in 1542, continued on to Malacca in 1545, and finally reached the centrally located Moluccan port of Ambon on February 14, 1546. Once there, he directed his labors towards supporting the Catholic community that had been established by Portuguese traders and priests as well as spending brief stints with the communities in Ternate and in Moro, the northwestern sector of the island of Halmahera. After a second visit to Ternate, he returned in early 1547 to Malacca, whence he commissioned the first Jesuit missionaries to go to Ambon as residents. Thus began a Jesuit mission in eastern Indonesia that would last until 1688.

The Jesuit missionaries were initially optimistic regarding the conversion not only of the many pagans in the region, but also of the Muslim rulers and their subjects. Sultan Hairun, for example, promised Xavier that one of his sons would become a Christian, although this never happened. The Society’s greatest hope, however, resided with the mission in Bacan, where another young sultan, having requested Portuguese priests, was baptized in June 1557 with the new name of João I and was subsequently followed into the Christian faith by some members of his family. As a result, Sultan Hairun of Ternate summoned him to return to Islam, but João was steadfast and so remained allied with the Portuguese until the late 1560s when he finally did reconvert to Islam.

João’s reconversion sparked a series of events that had disastrous repercussions for the colonial presence in the region, impacting not only Portuguese soldiers but traders and missionaries as well. In retribution for the Sultan of Bacan’s decision, the Portuguese captain decided to kill Sultan Hairun during his visit to the Portuguese fortification on February 28, 1570. Hairun’s son and successor, Baab Ullah (r.1570–83), swore an oath of vengeance and sent Ternatan forces to destroy Bacan in 1571. By 1575, he had forced the Portuguese to leave Ternate and take refuge on the rival island of Tidore.3

In addition to their fortification in Ternate—and subsequently in Tidore—the Portuguese built a feitoria (trading post) in Ambon. This provided a good harbor, both safe and deserted, in which they were able to build, a “Christian town” amidst a mosaic of Muslim and pagan villages.4 In the 1560s, five Jesuit priests worked in Ambon and the neighboring islands. The feitoria of Ambon would shortly develop into their major stronghold while simultaneously comprising the largest population of Christians in the region by the end of the sixteenth century.

Ambon was conquered by the Dutch in 1605, who enforced religious boundaries between Muslims and Christians while expelling the Catholic clergy and assimilating native Christians into the Reformed tradition. The Catholic loss of Ambon was somewhat counterbalanced by the Spaniards (via Manila) and their construction of a strong fortification in Ternate, which led to a modest revival of Catholicism there. But this was short-lived, as a Chinese attack on Manila in 1662 forced the Spaniards to abandon their outpost in Ternate, which was their last stronghold in the Malay Archipelago. Christian enclaves nevertheless remained in the northern islands of the Moluccas, as well as in the Moro region of northwestern Halmahera and on the islands of Manado, Sangir, and Talaud. Meanwhile the Jesuits were active in Makassar, as will be discussed below.

Around the turn of the seventeenth century, 234 Jesuits were sent on mission to the Moluccas and fifteen to Makassar. About forty arrived in Makassar for visits of varying lengths. From the correspondences of Jesuit missionaries in these two locales, 713 documents are available, giving detailed but fragmentary information about the developments sketched above. The two most prominent authors are the founder of the Moluccan mission, Francis Xavier, and one of its visitors, Alessandro Valignano (1539–1606). The correspondence of visitors and superiors, writing from afar, frequently provides only a general overview of the missions, although it does serve to  illustrate the internal communication structure of the Society at large. For more detailed descriptions, one must turn to the letters of missionaries who lived in the region itself.

In the early twentieth century, Dutch Catholic missionaries in Indonesia attempted to revive the memory of the archipelago’s early mission. Bernard Visser, a Missionary of the Sacred Heart (MSC) (d.1941) and the first to publish a history of Catholics in the region “under the banners of Portugal and Spain,” expresses regret that a flourishing mission was, from 1605 onward, replaced by a sort of Protestant monopoly. Furthermore, writing as a candidate-missionary himself, Visser laments that Catholics undertook a recovery, challenging as it was, only in the mid-nineteenth century.5 With sources like the Monumenta Xaveriana, as well as older Spanish and Portuguese texts, Visser dedicates much attention to the Jesuits, as well as the Franciscans in Bacan and the Dominican friars based in Flores and Timor.6

Cornelius Wessels (1880–1964), a Jesuit and professional historian, likewise focuses on the Jesuit period in Ambon, between 1546 and 1605. His history of the mission is based on research conducted in the Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu while teaching at Canisius College (the Jesuit boarding school in Nijmegen) and includes a list of seventy-nine hitherto unpublished documents.7 Wessels’s account avoids the kind of regretful sentiments that typify Visser’s writings, as evidenced by his prefatory reference to the 1923 publication of the first volume of History of the Protestant Church in Netherlands Indies, by Jakob Mooij, a monograph produced by the government publisher in the Dutch East Indies by order of the Ministry of Colonial Affairs in The Hague.8 But Wessels also eschews triumphalism, giving full weight to the many difficulties faced in Ternate, the initial hope and subsequent disaster in Bacan, and the stalled progress in Ambon from 1570 to 1600.

In the wake of Francis Xavier, most of the Jesuits in this region were Portuguese.9 Some of the priests and quite a few of the Jesuit temporal coadjutors formally entered the order in Goa or even in the Moluccas. One such person—a much debated one—was António Vaz (c.1526–1600), who joined the society in Goa in 1548 and arrived in Ambon in 1554. Soon after, Vaz moved to Ternate, where he was dismissed from the order in 1555. He protested, however, remaining in his position and even baptizing the local sultan of Bacan in 1557. In the following year, he returned to Goa for another year of novitiate but—despite a successful ministry until his death—he remained mistrusted in the Moluccas.10

Another prominent Jesuit figure in the late sixteenth century was the Italian Antonio Marta (d.1629), who was the superior of the Moluccan mission between 1586 and 1597. After some progress in the 1550s and 1560s, he determined that the mission was in serious decline. On one occasion, his reports claimed 100,000 or even 150,000 baptisms of the local indigenous population, which would suggest that only 25,000 of that community would have remained unbaptized. However, in another, less enthusiastic letter, he indicates that only two thousand were actually baptized in Ambon, and most of them were residents within the Portuguese fortification.11 Of course, numbers have their own logic in these sources. According to Marta himself, the primary reason for the decline of the mission was the weakness and corruption of the Portuguese administration; he insists that only with the full subordination of the region through military power could he hope for the growth of a native Christian community. Along these lines, another interesting figure that emerges in the letters of Marta is the Jesuit lay brother Gaspar Gómez (1552–1622), who undertook diplomatic consultations as far as Macao, Manila, and Malacca, and petitioned for more military support.12


The End of the Mission in Ambon: Frustrated Endeavors in Celebes

On February 22, 1605, the Dutch admiral Steven van der Haghen (1563–1621) arrived off the coast of Ambon. Within two days the Portuguese surrendered, under a condition that their soldiers could leave with their weapons. Those who wanted to stay were forced to take a vow of obedience to the Dutch administration, while native Catholics were put “under protection of the Dutch State and the Prince of Orange.” Two Catholic churches near the fortification were eventually demolished. After van der Haghen left in late March, the situation quickly worsened, as other Catholic churches were plundered, church bells removed, and statues of saints destroyed. On May 9, 1605, the remaining Portuguese, including two Jesuit priests, were ordered to leave Ambon.13

Until this moment, Makassar—an important harbor and one of the largest kingdoms in the region—and its rulers were uncommitted in terms of religious affiliation, being neither Christian nor Muslim. A Christian presence persisted in the area, since the Spaniards, as previously mentioned, had assembled native Catholics around the formerly Portuguese fortification of Ternate and several pockets of Christians sustained their communities on various islands. Yet on September 22, 1605, the karaeng (king) of Tallo declared that he and his realm would become Islamic. Other rulers in neighboring southern Sulawesi soon followed.

The loss of Makassar was a disappointment for the Jesuits, particularly since—as reported by the Jesuit priest André Ferrão (c.1625–61) in 1658—the court of Makassar had simultaneously sent envoys to both Portuguese and Muslim courts in the sixteenth century, determined to embrace the first religion that arrived. But the Jesuit mission of Malacca was tardy in sending its priests, and so the court of Makassar adopted Islam as its official religion.14 Nevertheless, the Jesuits persevered in the region, experiencing brief resurgences in 1617–18, after the conquest of Malacca by the Dutch in 1641, and from 1646 to 1668, when there existed an open and religiously pluralistic society in which Portuguese and other Malaccans had taken refuge. The Jesuits were restricted, however, to serving only Catholics—the Malaccan refugees—and were not permitted to proselytize. Yet by 1667, the Dutch colonial forces, having defeated the sultan of Makassar, forced all Catholic priests to leave the region as well as other territories under Dutch rule.

Concerning this period,  from 1600 to 1680, the two Dutch historians Visser and Wessels contribute valuable accounts.15 The Jesuit, Wessels, limits himself to summaries of the basic source material, to the extent that it was available in the Roman archives. Visser, in contrast, presents a narrative drawn from a vast selection of secondary written accounts.

A subject of special interest in this period is the fate of some 190 Catholic priests, including roughly sixty-six Jesuits, who travelled through Batavia (now Jakarta) to other parts of East Asia. The historian Joseph J. Th. Wijnhoven identifies relevant sources and presents a list of names for this incident, but approximately forty years earlier Visser had already written a number of related stories. Some priests were either immediately sent back to their boats or were imprisoned, whereas others were well received by prominent Dutch Catholic officials; this latter detail illustrates a degree of toleration on the part of the Dutch colonial authorities, who not only allowed lay Catholics to remain but also accepted the presence of priests in spite of the official colonial policy of discrimination.16

Adolf Heuken, S.J. (b.1929), one of the most prodigious Catholic writers and publicists of independent Indonesia, is another valuable resource for the period. In a series of books on the early modern history of Jakarta, intended for an international audience, this Jesuit scholar intricately describes the city, particularly its Protestant churches, mosques, and Chinese temples. He also published two editions (comprising five and nine volumes, respectively) of a richly illustrated encyclopedia of Catholic doctrines and history in which special attention is given to Indonesia. Moreover, in preparation for an ecumenical History of Christianity in Indonesia, he chronicled the history of the early Catholic mission in Indonesia from the 1530s until 1800. A 2008 abridged version of the book was included in the first comprehensive history of Indonesian Christians.17

Another crucial factor in the Indonesian religious mosaic is a socio-political division that predates the introduction of either Islam or Christianity. The fragmented region of the Moluccas consists of islands, both large and small, that were already divided into two basic categories: siwa and lima. This division refers to rival power blocs, one centered on Tidore (the nine siwa islands) and one centered on Ternate (the five lima islands). A central feature of this rivalry since the arrival of Islam to the region is that the latter group identifies as the more orthodox representatives of Islam, whereas Tidore—no less devoutly Muslim—boasts a pluralistic culture and is where the majority of the Christians have historically resided. (This remains true even today.) The later division of this vast region between Muslims, most of whom tend to live in the northern sections of the islands, and Christians, who typically inhabit the southern sections, not only is related to the distinction between the two largest global religions but is typically regarded as an echo of this earlier socio-political division within Indonesian society.

Whatever may be the cause for the rise of the mosaic of Christian and Muslim villages that took its final form in the seventeenth century, the historical reports of Jesuits contribute much to our understanding of this unique pattern of Muslim-Christian relations. The anthropologist Christiaan Frans van Fraassen (b.1945), for instance, studies this division between siwa and lima in his 1987 dissertation, in which he makes extensive use of the facts provided in the Documenta Malucensia, which details the conversion of many villages in their entirety to either Islam or Christianity. These social trends, according to van Fraassen, clearly confirm the customary division of society that was established well before the introduction of either Abrahamic tradition.18

Several comparative studies of this early period implicate the Jesuit mission within the broader agenda of the European colonialists. A notable example is the research of John Villiers, who analyzes this intercultural encounter according to the three interconnected goals of “God, gold, and glory.” Using this framework, Villiers contends that the Portuguese who arrived in the Moluccas were no longer simply conquerors or explorers but were also traders and missionaries. “Attacking Islam, spreading Christianity, and making profits ‘de um caminho,’” Villiers concludes, “were in reality three aspects of the same motive for expansion.”19 Another elaboration of this theme occurs in the writing of Karel Steenbrink, who explicates the particularity of the Jesuit mission according to their European cultural context by comparing the Portuguese and Dutch religious motivations. According to this account, the idea of the continuing reconquista for the Portuguese is among the foremost ideas supporting their religious zeal, whereas the Dutch discourse encourages the creation of small pockets of true believers as a sort of “Indian Zion.”20

From a Protestant perspective, there are reports from the Protestant mission in eastern Indonesia, as exemplified by the aforementioned publication of documents by the Batavia Church Council at the behest of the government. Regarding the early period of the mission, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the six volumes by Henk Niemeijer and Thom van den End explain the emergence of education as one of the primary ecclesiastical activities, with numerous references to the Jesuits. There are two noteworthy themes from these sources: first, for a few years after February 1605, all native Catholics—laity and catechists—were directed to adhere to Reformed Protestant practices and doctrines; and second, in the later seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, Jesuits from Manila were seen as agents of Spanish influence in eastern Indonesia and were thus suspect in the eyes of the Dutch Protestants.21


From van der Velden to Heuken: Recording the “Second Coming” of Jesuits in Indonesia since 1859

As a consequence of the French Revolution, Reformed Protestantism lost its dominant position in the Netherlands and its colonies, and so relatively few priests could enter the Dutch East Indies from 1808 onwards. As a result, in 1859 just nine diocesan priests served the entire population of European Catholics in the colony; a single priest was responsible for the native Catholics in all of East Flores (a territory that had been acquired by the Dutch from the Portuguese government as part of a treaty settling colonial boundaries in Timor). It was in that same year that, after long negotiations in the Netherlands, the first two Dutch Jesuits would arrive. By 1907, the ranks of the Society in Indonesia had grown to forty-eight priests and nine temporal coadjutors, making them by far the largest group of missionaries in the colony. By way of comparison, there were at the time only one diocesan priest, nine Capuchin friars, and three brothers in all of Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo).

Arnold van der Velden (d.1918) provides the first full history of this century of recovery. As a young missionary (beginning in 1894), he  worked in Sumba, an island with only difficult and irregular connections to other parts of Indonesia. It had been “occupied” by Catholic missionaries during a veritable race with the Protestant missions to claim as much mission territory as possible, since colonial regulations allowed only one missionary organization per region. In 1898, however, the station of Sumba closed due to a lack of personnel, and so the ministerial focus was strategically redirected toward the native population of central Java. Van der Velden, an obedient man, did not protest when his initial work was halted, despite the effort he had invested in writing a grammar of the indigenous language of West Sumba. Written while on furlough in the Netherlands, van der Velden’s book presents a general history of Catholic missionary work in the Indonesian colony, with particular attention given to the Jesuits.22

The second comprehensive book, published by Antonius van Aernsbergen in 1934 as a commemoration of the Jesuits’ seventy-five years of missionary work in the Indies, draws not only from the archives of the vicar apostolic of Batavia but also from those belonging to the mission superior in Semarang as well as from other local archives. A truly encyclopedic work, this annal-style book provides a full range of administrative details, such as arrivals of missionaries, nominations for mission posts, and other major activities. Of special note, the Jesuit van Aernsbergen features the ministries of various congregations of sisters, specifically those engaged in education and healthcare, that collaborated with the Jesuits; yet in his account, the Jesuits are always identified by name, whereas the sisters are routinely anonymous.23

In anticipation of the one hundredth anniversary of the Jesuits’ reintroduction to Indonesia, Gerard Vriens (1901–59) prepared a manuscript on the history of the Jesuit presence in the region. It was not published, however, due to the author’s death. Nor did it add much to what can be learned from van Aernsbergen’s book, published twenty-five years previously. Nevertheless, it is distinguished by Vriens’s narrative approach, which paints a portrait of a small and an independent Catholic church and contrasts with van Aernsbergen’s focus upon the internal administration of the Society and its ministries. Vriens also provides a detailed discussion of Jesuit strategies for expansion, in regard both to territory and to various aspects of religious life. A partial Indonesian-language version of Vriens’s manuscript appears in an edited series that constitutes the first church history in the Indonesian language.24

Adrianus Busch (1900–78), continuing the work of van Aernsbergen, adds annual records through 1971. These records, written in Dutch until 1955 and thereafter alternating between Dutch and Indonesian, were never published for public consumption. The 210-page manuscript  has however been distributed via photocopy to various institutions in Indonesia and the Netherlands. The Jesuits Theo Helsloot (b.1926) and Joost Drost (b.1925) wrote a much shorter continuation of that history through 2001, but it has also remained unpublished. Their work was incorporated into and superseded by the scholarship of Adolf Heuken, specifically 150 tahun Serikat Jesus berkarya di Indonesia, which commemorated in 2009 the 150th anniversary of Jesuit work in Indonesia.25 Despite its modest title, Heuken’s book also addresses, in its first chapter, the early period of the Jesuit presence in Indonesia.26

Although Heuken follows the concise style of van Aernsbergen, he gives special attention to several thorny issues of Jesuit history. One example is his treatment of the controversial figure of the Jesuit Joop Beek (1917–83). After working for the student apostolate in Yogyakarta, Beek arrived in Jakarta in 1959 to become the national leader of the Kongregasi Maria (Sodality of Our Lady) and subsequently transformed this pious, apolitical movement into a pastoral and political training circuit for Catholic students. Both before and shortly after the failed Communist coup of September 30, 1965, and the subsequent military takeover of the government, Beek employed all types of tactics to eliminate Communist influence. He made similar efforts to diminish Muslim influence after 1967. Among the Jesuits themselves, some admired his polarizing and radical political activities, while others heavily criticized him. In 1971, the superior general of the Society, Pedro Arrupe (1907–91), and the Jesuit archbishop of Jakarta, Adrianus Djajasepoetra (1894–1979), ordered Beek to leave Indonesia for a period of two years. After his suspension and eventual return to Indonesia, he kept a much lower public profile than he had before.27

The Society of Jesus in Indonesia has developed a distinct identity. In general, it is regarded as being keen on high-quality education, and it is often depicted as being close to local and national elites and at the same time disinclined to show respect for local forms of “tribal” religiosity. A helpful resource for understanding the “corporate identity” of the Indonesian Jesuits and situating them in relation to the fourteen religious orders of priests and brothers currently in Indonesia is the second volume of Catholics in Indonesia.28 In this account, which characterizes each of the fourteen orders in a representative manner, there is particular focus upon their distinctive styles and the spirituality of the religious communities that they serve. The Jesuits, for their part, often take a critical stance towards indigenous practices. For example, Gregorius Metz, the first Jesuit working in East Flores, writes shortly after his arrival in 1863 that the local Catholic raja was living a polygamous lifestyle and practiced some pagan rituals, but he adds, in reference to the reducciones in South America, “If we succeed in truly winning the Raja for God's affairs, then it will not be difficult, with God's grace, to establish here a new Paraguay.”29 This theocratic dream gave impetus—under an apparently more pious successor, Raja Lorenzo—to the practice of singing at the end of Sunday Mass a prayer for him, rather than for the Dutch queen: Domine, salvum fac regem nostrum Laurentium. However, the Protestant colonial official was not pleased with this and heavily criticized the Jesuits for the practice.30 It was just one of the conflicts that eventually resulted in the deposition of Raja Lorenzo, against the wishes of the Jesuits.

In many countries, the Jesuits devote much attention to high-quality secondary schools that often feature boarding facilities for students. Yet on account of the presence of the Ursuline Sisters and a Dutch Congregation of Aloys Brothers,31 no important colleges were established by the Jesuits in Indonesia. Their interest in academic education has nevertheless resulted in their working at the Sanata Dharma University and other institutions in Jakarta and Yogyakarta. Sanata Dharma borders Atma Jaya University, which was established by Catholic lay organizations.


Concentration on Java after 1900: Frans van Lith, Soegijapranata, Darmojuwono, and Other Prominent Jesuits

During the twentieth century, the Jesuits continued to play a large role in the religious and cultural life of Indonesia, especially on the central island of Java. The earliest records of the period come from special missionary reports that were mimeographed and distributed to various patrons in the Netherlands, some of which have been recently reprinted.32 Another valuable resource is the quarterly St. Claverbond, founded by the Dutch Jesuits in 1889 to promote their work in the Dutch East Indies. It is by far the richest source of material for the history of the Jesuits between 1860 and 1920, especially for the southeastern islands of the archipelago. The periodical runs approximately 7,000 pages in total and provides first-hand accounts of Jesuit missionaries, based on documents from the archives in Larantuka (the oldest diocese in eastern Indonesia, located on the east coast of Flores), Ende (the largest administrative center of the region, with an archdiocese of its own), and Timor.

There are surprisingly few full-length biographies of Indonesian Jesuits from this period, even though the Society has the reputation of being closely affiliated with the national elites. One exception to this rule is Cornelis Johan Le Cocq d'Armandville (1846–96), who was born in Delft, Netherlands, to a French family who had migrated there during the French Revolution. A pioneering missionary, known for his experience with medicines and as the founder of a short-lived mission in Seram, d’Armandville died on an exploratory mission to West Papua. His death was that of a martyr (at least in the eyes of Christians), as it came at the hands of an Arab Muslim ship captain. A Dutch-language biography of d’Armandville was published in 1900 and was followed Indonesian version in 2001.33

Another prominent Jesuit figure of the later colonial period is Frans van Lith (1863–1926), the architect of the Jesuit mission in central Java. In a region where nearly all people considered themselves to be Muslims, at least nominally, van Lith was able to incorporate hundreds of congregants of a dissident native Protestant community into the Catholic Church. Moreover, in training hundreds of qualified teachers for primary schools, he cultivated local actors who would be instrumental in the conversion of roughly thirty thousand former Muslims in 1942. Thus far, van Lith is the subject of a Dutch biography, an Indonesian doctoral dissertation, and several academic articles.34 In Muntilan, where he worked for thirty years, both the museum and the documentation center bear his name, and his grave in that city is a prominent place of pilgrimage.35

Although the Jesuits did not establish a major university in Indonesia, their order was the first to found a major seminary there, with the mission of training local candidates for the priesthood. The first three priests ordained were F. X. Satiman (1891–1941);36 Albertus Soegijopranoto (1896–1963), who became the first indigenous Indonesian bishop in 1939; and Adrianus Djajasepoetra (1894–1979), the archbishop of Jakarta from 1952 to 1970. Residing at the Apostolic Vicariate of Semarang, far from the center of Dutch colonial power, Soegijopranoto was able to buffer Indonesian Catholics from the allegation that they were a colonial creation, a cause for which his strong support of Indonesian independence under President Sukarno proved especially helpful. Both he and his successor, Darmojuwono, are the subject of a doctoral dissertation defended at the Pontificia Università Gregoriana.37

In order to support Catholic schools and further establish the Indonesian basis of Catholic endeavors, the Jesuits established the publishing house Kanisius in 1922. In addition to producing books for elementary and secondary schools as well as many religious books, Kanisius has published Rohani, a journal that focuses on the spirituality of religious life, since 1953. Although the Jesuits are only one among roughly 130 religious orders in modern Indonesia, the two editors of the book that celebrated fifty years of Rohani—as well as twelve authors of its thirty articles—are Jesuits.38

The Jesuits of Indonesia also publish a cultural magazine for a general audience, Basis, which has been in circulation since 1951. Neither overtly theological nor even explicitly religious, Basis has become recognized as an excellent medium for reflections on cultural and ethical values, thereby circumventing discussions not only about doctrinal Christian theology but also about Islamic teachings. Its first managers and editors were the philosopher Nicolaus Driyarkara and the scholar of Old Javanese Piet Zoetmulder, but Dick Hartoko (b.1922)—a Jesuit of Eurasian parentage39—exercised more influence on it as its longtime editor from 1957 to 1995. A productive translator of modern European philosophy, Hartoko is widely acknowledged as a budayawan (culturalist), which is to say someone who interprets modern society. As editor, he frequently composed the introductory Tanda-tanda zaman (Signs of our time) feature, and typically did so with a critical view of political corruption in Indonesia. With neither revolutionary rhetoric nor the expository style of an agitator or a radical, Hartoko’s op-eds provide a mixture of idealism and resignation along with a consistent appeal to human values.40

Gabriel Possènti Sindhunata (b.1952), a young student of theology, was also active in journalism when he first became famous as a popular reporter of football. Having written a doctoral dissertation in Munich on the Javanese concept of the ratu adil, a messianic ideal ruler,41  he became vice-director of Basis in 1996 and shortly thereafter (in 1998) succeeded Hartoko as general editor of the journal. Initially a bi-monthly, Basis developed into a monthly publication under Sindhunata’s leadership.

Whereas Hartoko turned toward his Javanese identity only later in life, Sindhunata has consistently been a strong voice for Java’s cultural heritage. He is the author of a Javanese-language novel and also a promoter of a new pilgrimage site in Pakem, which is based on an imagined revival of Hindu relics that were discovered in the foundations of the district’s church. Additionally, his re-telling of the Ramayana stories, which were originally serialized in 1981, has become a continually reprinted modern classic that is rich in language and symbolic imagination.42 In another work of his, The Chinese Princess, a novel whose protagonist marries a sixteenth-century Javanese ruler and subsequently becomes mother to one of the first Muslim rulers in Java, Sindhunata not only reflects upon part of his Chinese heritage but also, from this perspective, discloses the tragic fate of Chinese women throughout Java’s history.43

In his biographical accounts of Indonesian lay brothers—the only such text written by a Jesuit—Sindhunata suggests that the contemporary Indonesian Catholic church is like a bird. According to this metaphor, temporal coadjutors serve as one wing and priests as the other; neither can function alone. His edited volume features nine prominent Dutch-born Jesuit brothers from the colonial past in addition to the biographies of twelve modern Indonesian Jesuit brothers, all of whom have a better formal education than their Dutch predecessors and confrères and some of whom even studied theology.44 Although most served in a strictly pastoral capacity, in one exceptional case, a brother was ordained as a deacon. Several others have worked as catechists, Sindhunata notes, although the few who commenced their priestly formation eventually failed at the level of the minor seminary.45

While Sindhunata’s volume is fascinating, it is worth noting that as of 2009, there were only twenty-one Jesuit brothers but more than 250 priests.46 Relatively speaking, there have always been far more priests than lay brothers in Indonesia. According to records in 1940, there were ninety-eight priests, compared to sixty scholastics (students preparing for priesthood) and twenty-six lay brothers. More recently, in 2001, the numbers reflected a similar disparity: 238 priests, compared to eighty-nine scholastics and twenty-six brothers.47

Although the Jesuits have not been very involved in the translation and dissemination of the Bible into Indonesian languages, they have made significant contributions to the creation of an Indonesian liturgy.48 The most widespread book among Indonesian Catholics on this subject is the hymnal Madah Bakti, which contains many songs written by or in collaboration with the German-born Jesuit Karl Prier (b.1937), who has lived in Indonesia since 1969.49 Prier was also the driving force behind a monthly bulletin on liturgical music, Warta musik liturgi, at the Pusat Kateketik (PUSKAT, Catechetical Centre) in Yogyakarta. Another creative influence at PUSKAT was the Swiss-born Ruedi Hofmann (1938–2008), an expert in media, who hired Balinese artists to create biblical illustrations, photography, and even stage plays for religious programs on television.50

In a more academic forum, Jan Bakker (1919–78) was a prodigious thinker, researcher, and lecturer at the theological school in Yogyakarta. Not only writing under his own name on Indonesian religion and culture in many national and international journals, he also published a widely read book on traditional Indonesian religions under the nom de plume “Rahmat Subagya.”51 Similarly, under the name of “Moh. Bazor,” he published in the late 1960s an angry pamphlet against both political corruption and pro-Muslim bias in the Ministry of Religion.52

Nonetheless, Muslim relations with the Society also reveal an openness and a spirit of friendship on the part of many Jesuits. Ahmad Wahib (1942–73), a Muslim, provides a remarkable story of this kind of Jesuit in his bestselling, posthumous memoir, which proved especially popular amongst Indonesian Muslims. Having arrived in September 1961 as a student of science at the Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta, Wahib resided in the Jesuit-run boarding house of Realino until October 31, 1964, and remained in contact with at least four Jesuits until his premature death in a traffic incident in Jakarta in 1973. In his short career, Wahib was a prominent member of the Himpunan Mahasiswa Islam (HMI, Muslim Student Association) in Yogyakarta and was a member of the modernizing think-tank the “Limited Group”  from 1967 to 1971. The group was then led by Professor Haji Abdul Mukti Ali (1923–2004), who later became Indonesia’s minister of religion and whose circle included leading Islamic scholars such as Nurcholish Madjid (1939–2005), Djohan Effendi (b.1939), Dawam Rahardjo (b.1942), and others. These thinkers read popular books of Western theology, such as The Secular City by Harvey Cox (b.1927), with the intent of developing their own style of “positive secularization” that would provide a modern interpretation of the traditional Islamic values.53

During this period between 1969 and 1973, Ahmad Wahib wrote a diary, excerpts of which were published after his sudden death and became very popular in the 1980s among intellectuals who promoted a liberal style of Islam. Various parts of his diary demonstrate deep and intimate relations with some Jesuits, which he had formed during his residence at Realino, including the one with the Jesuit priest Harry Stolk (1928–2005).54

In the 1970s, Realino was also the location of a ministry to political prisoners and their families, under the supervision of the Jesuit Paul de Blot de Sauvigny (b.1924). Another section was used for the extension of the minor seminary. By the 1980s, however, the house became a standard dormitory exclusively for Catholic students. As of 1992, it serves as the seat of the Realino Foundation for Justice and Peace, which concentrates on studies of local problems.55

In the three-volume series called Asian Christian Theologies, edited by John England, the Society of the Divine Word priest John Prior wrote the section on Indonesia (in volume 3). In it, he identifies sixteen influential Indonesian theologians, eleven of whom are Jesuits.56 A brief description of their individual contributions illustrates some of the ways the Society operated in Indonesian society, and continues to influence the church and society at large. The oldest, Nicolaus Driyarkara (1913–67), is a crucial figure in the national discourse about the civic ideology of Pancasila. Also included are Dick Hartoko and Sindhunata, both of whom are discussed in detail above. Robert Hardawiryana (b.1926) was important for his publications in Indonesian about Vatican II, while the Dutch-born biblical scholar Tom Jacobs (b.1929) is the major author of an Indonesian adaptation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Bernhard Kieser (b.1936) is known as a specialist in ethical philosophy, as is the case with Bernard S. Mardiatmadja (b.1943). Carolus Putranto (b.1951) wrote a doctoral dissertation on the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC).57 Johannes Baptista Banawiratma (b.1946) is known for his master’s thesis on Jesus as a kind of guru, in which he explained his Christological interpretation with numerous references to the Javanese cultural understanding of a teacher as a personal guide; his more recent work focuses on social and contextual issues. It came as a shock to the Jesuits, and Catholics in general, when Banawiratma eventually married the Protestant theologian Judith Liem in 2002, leaving the Society and subsequently proceeding to teach at Duta Wacana, the Protestant university in Yogyakarta.58 Finally, Johannes Müller (b.1943), who collaborated with Banawiratma, published a book on social theology from an Indonesian perspective, which also appeared in a German translation.59

On August 13, 2015, President Joko Widodo (b.1961) announced a list of forty-six people who were to receive the Bintang Mahaputera, the elite honorary award offered by the Indonesian government. Among the awardees were two Jesuits: the late Piet Zoetmulder (d.1995), a great scholar of Old Javanese; and the Silesian-born Franz (von) Magnis-Suseno (b.1936), a great thinker and an analyst of Indonesian society and politics who was also at times a severe critic of Soeharto (1921–2008), President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (b.1949), and even of Widodo himself.60


The Consolidation of the Indonesian Province since 1980

The Indonesian Jesuits have continued their work into the twenty-first century, but with a substantial demographic shift: sometime around 1980, the order’s Dutch majority gave way to a native-born one. Not coincidentally, it was during that period—between 1976 and 1988—that the Katholiek Documentatie Centrum of Nijmegen University executed a great project of mission history that collected records on 901 Dutch missionaries worldwide. Six of those collections were dedicated to Dutch Jesuits who worked in Indonesia—notably Harry Stolk and Tom Jacobs.61

At the same time, four notable books have appeared that present exemplary accounts of the life and work of Indonesian Jesuits and emphasize their vital contributions to their country and church. Essentially, these books are an invitation to young Indonesian Catholics to assimilate with their larger national community. Albertus Budi Susanto (b.1950) offers portraits of twenty-three Jesuits and ten other people, with specific emphasis on the distinct Jesuit lifestyle.62 Greg Soetomo refers to the 150-year history of the Jesuits in Indonesia—omitting the Portuguese period—with examples of eight Jesuits, seven of whom are European-born.63 Anwar Haryono published a book reviewing the broad variety of work being performed by Jesuits in Indonesia.64 Finally, an interesting collection published by Christian Triyudo gives an account of the experiences of thirty young candidates for the Society of Jesus who during their novitiate had to make a pilgrimage to a Muslim sacred place on the island of Java.65 This practice is deeply reminiscent of what Bagus Laksana describes in his recent book, Muslim and Catholic Pilgrimage Practices, in which he employs the model of comparative theology and interreligious dialogue formulated by the American Jesuit Francis X. Clooney (b.1950).66

In a period when the European Jesuits have seen a sharp decline in their membership, the Indonesian province has displayed very substantial growth. This historiographical essay shows the diversity of the Society’s membership in Indonesia, with special focus on the most prominent figures and the variety of its ministries—although there are some special aspects of their missions, for example the care of refugees, that deserve further attention. These developments demonstrate that Indonesian Jesuits have taken greater responsibility for a wide range of social and pastoral duties and play an active role in generating such activities internationally, particularly in other Southeast Asian (ASEAN) countries.


For more bibliographical information, consult Boston College Jesuit Bibliography: The New Sommervogel Online (NSO).


^ Back to text1. The name Maluku (or the Moluccas) is different from Malacca—a region now in the nation of Malaysia—whereas the Moluccas are situated at the eastern end of the Malay world in what is now the Republic of Indonesia. The name itself may have originated from the plural form of the Arabic word for king, mālik (plural, mulūk). In the sixteenth century, there were four petty kingdoms in this region of northeastern Indonesia. The two most important were located on the volcanic isles of  Ternate and Tidore, both with a diameter of only six kilometers and a volcano of roughly 1750 meters high. The other half of this region consisted of the island of Bacan and the sultanate of Jailolo on the west side of the large island of Halmahera.

^ Back to text2. Hubert Jacobs, ed., Documenta Malucensia (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 1974), 1:487. The translations are the author’s own, unless otherwise stated.

^ Back to text3. The great biographer of Francis is Georg Schurhammer, Franz Xaver: Sein Leben und seine Zeit, 4 vols. (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1955–73). For Francis Xavier in Indonesia, see 2/1:599–803. Also the following volumes show that Francis continued to request greater attention and support for the growing mission in the Moluccas. For an English translation of these volumes, see Francis Xavier: His Life His Times, 4 vols. (Rome: Jesuit Historical Institute, 1973–82).

^ Back to text4. Jacobs, ed., Documenta Malucensia; Jacobs, “Ambon as a Portuguese and Catholic Town, 1576–1605,” Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 41, no. 1 (1985): 1–17. In the three-volume Documenta Malucensia, those 713 documents comprise 2,500 pages.

^ Back to text5. Bernard J. J. Visser, Onder Portugeesch-Spaansche vlag: De katholieke missie van Indonesië 1511–1605 (Amsterdam: R. K. Boekcentrale, 1925).

^ Back to text6. Gabriel López del Horno, Monumenta Xaveriana, 2 vols. (Rome, 1899–1914); Petrus Iarricus Tholosanus, Thesaurus rerum Indicarum (Cologne, 1615). Nicolao Orlandino, Historia Societatis Jesu (Cologne, 1615) and many other works from the seventeenth century. Important for him was also Francisco de Sousa, Oriente conquistado a Jesu Christo pelos padres da Companhia de Jesus da provincia de Goa, 2 vols. (Lisbon, 1710).

^ Back to text7. Cornelius Wessels, De Geschiedenis der R. K. Missie in Amboina: Vanaf haar stichting door den H. Franciscus Xaverius tot haar vernietiging door de O.I. Compagnie, 1546–1605 (Nijmegen: Dekker and Van de Vegt, 1926). For the French translation, see Histoire de la mission d’Amboine depuis sa fondation par Saint François Xavier jusqu’à sa destruction par la Compagnie Néerlandaise des Indes Orientales, 1546–1605, trans. J. Roebroek (Louvain: Museum Lessianum, 1934).

^ Back to text8. Jakob Mooij, Geschiedenis der Protestantsche Kerk in Nederlandsch-Indië (Weltevreden: Landsdrukkerij, 1923). For this reference, see Wessels, Amboina, v. In particular, Wessels complained that the monopoly on the trade in cloves also extended to a missionary monopoly of the Protestant Reformed Church to the exclusion of the Catholic mission, and that this pattern to an extent was maintained until the late colonial period.

^ Back to text9. In fact, though, Juan de Beira (1512–64), the first missionary sent to the Moluccas, was a Spaniard. Born in Pontevedra, Spain, Beira as a diocesan priest had entered the Society in Portugal and matriculated in Coimbra.

^ Back to text10. There are apparently two reasons for this persistent mistrust of Vaz in Ternate. First, in 1554 he was nominated as the temporary caretaker of the Ternate mission during the absence of the superior, Alfonso de Castro. Yet once Castro returned, António Vaz continued to behave as if he were still the acting superior of the mission. Second, in terms of familial heritage, he was a “new Christian,” a cultural marker that made him the subject of further suspicion. See Jacobs, Monumenta Malucensia, 1:*29–*30, and related documents; Visser, Onder Portugeesch-Spaansche vlag, 120; Wessels, Amboina, 179; Adolf Heuken, “Be my witness to the ends of the earth!”: The Catholic Church in Indonesia before the 19th Century (Jakarta: Cipta Loka Caraka [CLC], 2002),  194.

^ Back to text11. See Wessels, Amboina, 87, 90, and 106. Forty pages—roughly a quarter—of the book on Ambon Island by Wessels is devoted to the reports of Marta; see also Jacobs, Documenta Malucensia, 2:*36–*38, and related documents.

^ Back to text12. See Jacobs, Documenta Malucensia, 2:*52, and especially the Appendix, 741–62.

^ Back to text13. According to the Portuguese Jesuit sources, van der Haghen has been described as a (former) Catholic. See Jacobs, Documenta Malucensia, 2:680n4.

^ Back to text14. Hubert Jacobs, Jesuit Makasar Documents (1615–1682) (Rome: Jesuit Historical Institute, 1988), 151–59.

^ Back to text15. Bernard J. J. Visser, Onder de Compagnie: Geschiedenis der katholieke missie van Nederlandsch-Indië 1606–1800 (Batavia: Kolff, 1934); Cornelius Wessels, De katholieke missie in de Molukken, en Noord-Celebes en de Sangihe-eilanden gedurende de Spaansche bestuursperiode, 1606–1677 (Tilburg: Bergmans, 1935). The latter books, by Wessels, along with his De Geschiedenis der R. K. Missie in Amboina (see n7) were translated into Indonesian and published as the first volume in a series on the history of Indonesian Catholicism; see Martinus Muskens et al., eds., Sejarah gereja katolik Indonesia, vol. 1 (Jakarta: Bagian Dokumentasi-Penerangan, Kantor Waligereja Indonesia, 1973).

^ Back to text16. Joseph J. Th. Wijnhoven, “List of Roman Catholic priests in Batavia at the time of the VOC, Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 30 (1974): 13–38, 127–38.

^ Back to text17. Adolf Heuken, Historical Sites of Jakarta (Jakarta: CLC, 1982; several reprints); Heuken, ed., Ensiklopedi gereja, 5 vols. (Jakarta: CLC, 1991–5); second edition in 9 vols. (Jakarta: CLC, 2004–6); Heuken, “Be my witness to the ends of the earth!”); Heuken, Gedung-gedung ibadat yang tua di Jakarta:, Gereja, Mesjid, Klenteng, 3 vols. (Jakarta: CLC, 2003); Heuken, Sejarah gereja di Asia dan Indonesia (Jakarta: Cipta Loka, 2005); Heuken, “Catholic Converts in the Moluccas, Minahasa and Sangihe-Talaud, 1512–1680,” and “The Solor-Timor Mission of the Dominicans 1562–1800,” in A History of Christianity in Indonesia, ed. Jan Sihar Aritonang and Karel Steenbrink (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 23–98. On May 15, 2013, Heuken received an award from the Ministry of Culture of Indonesia for his fifty years of promoting love for and research on the history of Jakarta and the older history of Indonesia. The ceremony took place in the Goethe-Institut Indonesia in Jakarta where the vice-governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (known as “Ahok”) praised him for his many writings on the subject.

^ Back to text18. Christiaan Frans van Fraassen, “Ternate, de Molukken en de Indonesische archipel: Van soa-organisatie en vierdeling; Een studie van traditionele samenleving en cultuur in Indonesië,” 2 vols. (PhD diss., Universiteit Leiden, 1987), still unpublished. See especially 2:495–500.

^ Back to text19. John Villiers, “'De um caminho ganhar almas e fazenda': Motives of Portuguese Expansion in Eastern Indonesia in the Sixteenth Century,” Terrae incognitae 14, no. 1 (1982): 23–39; for this quote see 39; also Villiers, “Las Yslas de Esperar en Dios: Jesuits in Moro 1546–1571,” Modern Asian Studies 22, no. 3 (1988): 593–606.

^ Back to text20. Karel Steenbrink, “Dutch versus Portuguese Colonialism?: Traders versus Crusaders?,” in Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History, vol. 8: Northern and Eastern Europe (1600–1700), eds. David Thomas and John Chesworth (Leiden: Brill, 2016, 35–48).

^ Back to text21. The Batavia Church Council found its publisher in Jakob Mooij, Bouwstoffen voor de geschiedenis der Protestantsche Kerk in Nederlandsch-Indië, 3 vols. (Weltevreden: Landsdrukkerij, 1927–31); the documents for eastern Indonesia were published in Henk E. Niemeijer and Thom van den End, eds., Bronnen betreffende Kerk en School in de gouvernementen Ambon, Ternate en Banda ten tijde van de Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, 1605–1791, 6 vols. (The Hague: Huygens ING, 2015). For the later rivalry and animosity between Catholic and Protestant missions, particularly in Sumba and central Java, see the source publications: Thom van den End, Gereformeerde zending op Sumba, 1859–1972 (Utrecht: Raad voor de Zending, 1987); Christiaan G. F. de Jong and Hommo Reenders, eds., De Gereformeerde Zending in Midden-Java 1859–1975, 2 vols. (Utrecht: Raad voor de Zending, 1997–2001).

^ Back to text22. Arnold J. H. van der Velden, De Roomsch-Katholieke Missie in Nederlandsch Oost-Indië, 1808–1908 (Nijmegen: Malmberg, 1908).

^ Back to text23. Antonius I. van Aernsbergen, Chronologisch overzicht van de werkzaamheid der Jezuïeten in de missie van N.O-I bij den 75sten verjaardag van hun aankomst in de nieuwe missie, 1859–1934 (Bandoeng: A.C. Nix, 1934).

^ Back to text24. See Gerard J. M. Vriens, “Honderd jaar Jezuietenmissie in Indonesië” (Kolese St. Ignatius (KOLSANI), Yogyakarta, photocopy). A typewritten copy of this 1959 manuscript is located in several Jesuit libraries in Indonesia—such as the one already cited—as well as Berchmanianum, in Nijmegen, Netherlands. In 1997, Kanisius, the Jesuit publishing house in Yogyakarta, prepared an edition in two volumes, with 1,090 pages in total. Although proof prints were distributed to various specialists in this field, including this author, no publication would come of it. Nevertheless, the author himself will be delivering Vriens’s manuscript soon to the Leiden library of the Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde (KITLV, Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies). For the partial Indonesian translation, see Muskens, ed., Sejarah Gereja Katolik di Indonesia, vols. 2 and 3.

^ Back to text25. Adolf Heuken, 150 tahun Serikat Jesus berkarya di Indonesia (150 years of the Society of Jesus working in Indonesia) (Jakarta: CLC, 2009). Originally planned as a collaboration between Heuken and another Jesuit from central Java, Heuken ultimately undertook the project on his own.

^ Back to text26. See ibid., especially 15–50. The first chapter covers the period between 1546 and 1773; chapter 2, on their work for the whole archipelago, includes the eastern regions in the period between 1859 and 1922 (especially 51–108). The latter half of the book (especially 109–272) is about their work in Java since the late 1890s.

^ Back to text27. Ibid., 157, 188. An example of uncritical hagiographical view of Joop Beek is J. B. Soedarmanta, Pater Beek, S.J.: Larut tetapi tidak hanyut; Biografi, 1917–1983 (Jakarta: Obor, 2008). A very strong criticism of it was published by fellow Jesuit Harry Stolk in Dijkstra, pelancar Musyawarah, ed. Bambang Ismawan et al. (Jakarta: Bina Swadaya, 1991), 140–49. Saskia Wieringa has written a book about the failed 1965 coup and introduced Beek (literally “rivulet” in Dutch) under the name of Bron (literally, “source” in Dutch) and has charged him, alongside Muslim leader Z. E. Subchan, as the masterminds behind the rise of general Soeharto into national leadership; see Steenbrink, Catholics in Independent Indonesia, 18–21. A Dutch journalist wrote a book in which Beek is introduced as “Father Sloot” (literally “Ditch”), see Aad van den Heuvel, Stenen Tijdperk (Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers, 1991).

^ Back to text28. Karel Steenbrink, Catholics in Indonesia: A Documented History 1808–1942, 2 vols. (Leiden: KITLV, 2003–7), see especially 2:539–91. See also Steenbrink, Catholics in Independent Indonesia, 1945–2010, 80–105. This latter book should be regarded as part of the same project that includes the two KITLV volumes, and so it essentially functions as the third volume of this series. As a whole, these books comprise the only English-language history of Catholics in Indonesia. Another valuable English-language resource on this topic is Martinus Muskens, Partner in Nation Building: The Catholic Church in Indonesia, trans. Yoachim van der Linden et al. (Aachen: Missio Aktuell Verlag, 1979), which is a revised translation of his doctoral dissertation Indonesië: Een strijd om nationale identiteit; Nationalisten, islamieten, katholieken (Bussum: Paul Brand, 1969).

^ Back to text29. Steenbrink, Catholics in Indonesia, 1:98.

^ Back to text30. Ibid., 90, quoting reports of 1887. In the Netherlands, Catholic Church buildings were banned in the period from 1600 until 1800, and the same was true in the colony of the Dutch East Indies. Most colonial officials were freemasons and/or Protestant during the nineteenth century. Between 1842 and 1847 there had been a great conflict between the governor general and the apostolic vicar—who was a diocesan priest—and subsequently all priests were banned in that period. There were quite a few conflicts with members of the Society, in particular, since their arrival in 1859. There is no special study on this topic for the Society, but there is a specific study on the topic of freedom of religion and preaching for Catholics in the colony. See Jan Weitjens, De vrijheid der Katholieke prediking in Nederlands-Indië van 1900–1940 (Rome: Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 1969). Weitjens’s study is published as an excerpt, in Dutch, of his doctoral dissertation.

^ Back to text31. This religious order receives its name, Huybergen Brothers, in honor to the Dutch villages where their convent was located, adjacent to the philosophate of the Jesuits.

^ Back to text32. Peter Boomgaard, Harry Poeze, and Gerard Termorshuizen, eds., God in Indië: Bekeringsverhalen uit de negentiende eeuw (Leiden: KITLV, 1997); Henk Smeets, Paters in de Oost: Brieven uit Indië 1859–1883 (Nijmegen: Walburg Pers, 2005).

^ Back to text33. Willem van Nieuwenhof, Levensbeschrijving van R. P. Le Cocq d'Armandville, S.J. (Amsterdam: Borg, 1900; German translation: Regensburg, 1902); Rudolph Kurris, Sang jago Tuhan (Yogyakarta: Kanisius, 2001).

^ Back to text34. Leopold van Rijckevorsel, Pastoor F. van Lith SJ: De Stichter van de Missie in Midden-Java, 1863–1926 (Nijmegen: Claverbond, 1952); Hasto Rosariyanto, Father Franciscus van Lith SJ (1863–1926): Turning Point of the Catholic Church's Approach in the Pluralistic Indonesian Society (Rome: Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 1997); Gerry van Klinken, “Power, Symbol and the Catholic Mission in Java: The Biography of Frans van Lith S.J.,” Documentatieblad voor de Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse Zending en Overzeese Kerken 1, no. 4 (1997): 43–59; Rémy Madinier, “Espoirs abangan: Les missionnaires chrétiens et l'Islam javanais, 1808–1945,” in L'Islam des marges: Mission chrétienne et espaces périphériques du monde musulman XVI–XXe siècles, eds. Bernard Heyberger and Rémy Madinier (Paris: Karthala, 2011), 231–65.

^ Back to text35. Gregorius Budi Subanar and Dona Prawita Arissuta, eds., 150 tahun Rama van Lith, SJ: Dari Muntilan merajut Indonesia (Yogyakarta: Universitas Sanata Dharma Press, 2013). This particular pilgrimage site is discussed in Albertus Bagus Laksana, “Journeying to God in Communion with the Other: A Comparative Study of the Muslim and Catholic Pilgrimage Traditions in South Central Java and Their Contributions to Catholic Theology” (PhD diss., Boston College, 2011).This dissertation is revised and published as Muslim and Catholic Pilgrimage Practices: Explorations through Java (Burlington, VT: Ashgate 2014); see especially chapter 4, “Identity and Memory: Sacred Space and the Formation of Javano-Catholic Identity,” 105–34, as well as 27 (fig. 1.2), 112 (fig. 4.3), and the figures in Appendix A, 613–14, and 618–20.

^ Back to text36. Satiman actually had left the Society in 1941 in order to join the Trappists, and he died soon thereafter.

^ Back to text37. Gregorius Budi Subanar, The Local Church in the Light of Magisterium Teaching on Mission: A Case in Point; The Archdiocese of Semarang, Indonesia (1940–1981) (Rome: Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 2001). Subanar also published the diary of Soegijopranoto (whose name is also spelled as Soegijapranata in this article), which covers the first half of 1947 and was originally written in Javanese and has been translated into Indonesian; see Kesaksian revolusioner seorang uskup di masa perang (Yogyakarta: Galang Press, 2003); an Indonesian translation of the PhD diss. was published as Menuju gereja mandiri: Sejarah Keuskupan Semarang di bawah dua Uskup, 1940–1981 (Yogyakarta; Universitas Sanata Dharma Press, 2005). For the version intended for a popular audience, see Subanar, Kilasan kisah Soegijapranata (Jakarta: Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia [KPG], 2012). A film was produced on the life of this first Indonesian bishop under the title, 100% Indonesia (2012), repeating that he proclaimed himself to be “100% Catholic but also 100% Indonesian.” The book accompanying the film was written by the extremely popular novelist: Ayu Utami, Soegija, 100% Indonesia (Jakarta: KPG, 2012).

^ Back to text38. Antonius Sudiarja and Albertus Bagus Laksana, eds., Berenang di arus zaman: Tantangan hidup religius di Indonesia kini (Yogyakarta: Kanisius 2003).

^ Back to text39. Born as Dick Geldrop, Hartoko is the son of a Dutch-born planter and a native Javanese woman. Notable in the context of his prominent role at the periodical Basis and as such a public figure Hartoko spent the majority of his final years of his life reading and listening to stories of Javanese stories and traditions.

^ Back to text40. Karel Steenbrink, “The ‘Reformasi’ of Basis,” in Milde Regen: Liber amicorum voor Hans Teeuw bij zijn vijfentachtigste verjaardag, ed. Willem van der Molen (Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers, 2006), 219–35;  for a Festschrift for Dick Hartoko, see Gregorius Moedjanto, Bernardus Rahmanto, and Justin Sudarmanto, eds., Tantangan kemanusiaan universal: Antologi filsafat, budaya, sejarah-politik dan sastra; Kenangan 70 tahun Dick Hartoko (Yogyakarta: Kanisius, 1992). The Jesuits of Jakarta published Katholiek leven, a weekly periodical in Dutch, which was founded in 1947 and continued as Hidup Katolik, which was subsequently published in Indonesian. The journal, still under Jesuit leadership and a major source of information about the Catholic Church in Indonesia, is known simply as Hidup since 1970.

^ Back to text41. Gabriel Possènti Sindhunata, Hoffen auf den Ratu-Adil: Das eschatologische Motiv des “Gerechten Königs” im Bauernprotest auf Java des 19. und zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts (Hamburg: Kovac, 1992); for an Indonesian translation, see Bayang-bayang Ratu Adil (Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka Utama, 1999).

^ Back to text42. Gabriel Possènti Sindhunata, Anak bajang menggiring angin (Jakarta: Gramedia, 1983).

^ Back to text43. Gabriel Possènti Sindhunata, Putri Cina (Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka Utama, 2007).

^ Back to text44. In this case of Aloysius Juwanawihardja, however, the ordination was a necessary part of his work-permit to serve the political prisoners in Buru in 1972; see Gabriel Possènti Sindhunata, ed., Sisi sepasang sayap: Wajah-wajah bruder Jesuit (Yogyakarta: Kanisius, 1998), 25–27. See also Steenbrink, Catholics in Independent Indonesia, 124.

^ Back to text45. Sindhunata Sisi Sepasang, 46, 54: tes seminari tidak lulus.

^ Back to text46. This data is drawn from the index of Heuken's 150 tahun Serikat Jesus, 262–72. See n25 above.

^ Back to text47. Jaarboek, de Katholieke Missie in Nederlands-Indië (Batavia, 1940); Buku Petunjuk Gereja Katolik Indonesia (Jakarta: MAWI, 2001).

^ Back to text48. Francis Xavier, according to records, had also written a catechism in Malay; on linguistic studies of Jesuits and some translations in Flores and Kai Islands between 1870 and 1910, see Steenbrink, Catholics in Indonesia, 1:514 (A. van der Velden); 2:607 (C. Le Cocq d'Armandville); E. Douglas Lewis, “Nian Tana Lero Wulan dan Bapa Para Leluhur: Historiografi kata-kata untuk Allah dalam Sara Sikka,” in Menerobos batas, merobohkan prasangka: Menyongsong HUT ke-65 P. John M. Prior, SVD, ed. Paul Budi Kleden and Robert Mirsel (Maumere: Penerbit ledalero, 2011), 2:121–49 (about L. F. Calon and C. Omtzigt in the 1870s).

^ Back to text49. Pusat Musik Liturgi (PMI), Madah bakti: Buku doa dan nyanyian umum (Yogyakarta: PMI, 1983; latest reprint 2013).

^ Back to text50. For Prier, see Steenbrink, Catholics in Independent Indonesia, 66 and 174–75; and for Hoffman, see 90–98.

^ Back to text51. See Rahmat Subagya, Kepercayaan: Kebatinan, kerohanian, kejiwaan dan agama (Yogyakarta: Yayasan Kanisius, 1976).

^ Back to text52. Steenbrink, Catholics in Independent Indonesia, 41, 97. See Moh. Bazr, “Departement Agama? [Department of religion?]” (KOLSANI, Yogyakarta, photocopy),  c.1970. While this polemical pamphlet is attributed to Bakker, it is not confirmed by Bakker himself, but by Adolf Heuken.

^ Back to text53. Greg Barton, “The International Context of the Emergence of Islamic Neo Modernism in Indonesia,” in Islam in the Indonesian Social Context, ed. M. C. Ricklefs (Melbourne: Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, Monash University, 1991), 69–82. For the source of this Protestant modernist influence, see Harvey Cox, The Secular City: Secularization and Urbanization in Theological Perspective (New York: Macmillan, 1965).

^ Back to text54. Djohan Effendi and Ismed Natsir, eds., Pergolakan pemikiran Islam: Catatan harian Ahmad Wahib (Jakarta: Lembaga Penelitian, Pendidikan dan Penerangan Ekonomi dan Sosial, 1981); for references herein, see especially 40 for the meeting of Harry Stolk as a sort of father figure, and for the apparition of Mother Mary, see 139–40. See also Greg Barton, “The Emergence of Neo-Modernism, a Progressive, Liberal, Movement of Islamic Thought in Indonesia: A Textual Study Examining the Writings of Nurcholish Madjid, Djohan Effendi, Ahmad Wahib and Abdurrahman Wahid, 1968–1980” (PhD diss., Monash University, 1995), still unpublished. See a report by Harry Stolk that includes a poem by Ahmad Wahib about Realino, dated October 31, 1964, the day Wahib left the students' dormitory. See Albertus Budi Susanto, Harta dan surga: Peziarahan Jesuit dalam gereja dan bangsa Indonesia modern (Yogyakarta: Kanisius, 1990), 257–60.

^ Back to text55. Heuken, Ensiklopedi gereja, 7:106. For this later period, see a contribution by Harry Stolk, “Realino (1952–1991) riwayatmu kini,” Forsino Nasantara, last updated July 6, 2008, (accessed June 15, 2016).

^ Back to text56. John Mansford Prior, “Contextual Theological Reflection in Indonesia, 1800–2000,” in John England, ed., Asian Christian Theologies, ed. John England, 3 vols. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004), 3:122–243. References and summaries are found in Steenbrink, Catholics in Independent Indonesia, 202–9. In the cited article, Prior additionally presents roughly forty Protestant theologians in this ecumenical book that reflects proportionally the size of the Christian communities: 3% Catholics and 6.5% Protestant in this country where 85% appear in the statistics as Muslim.

^ Back to text57. Because these theologians had nearly all their publications in Indonesian, I refer here to the writings of Prior and Steenbrink. See also Karel Steenbrink, “Five Catholic Theologians of Indonesia in Search of an International or Local Identity,” Exchange 29, no. 1 (2000): 2–22, which includes Banawiratma, Magnis Suseno, and Sindhunata; Steenbrink, “Seven Indonesian Perspectives on Theology of Liberation,” in Liberation Theologies on Shifting Grounds: A Clash of Socio-economic and Cultural Paradigms, ed. Georges de Schrijver (Leuven: Peeters, 1998), 380–94.

^ Back to text58. See Heuken, 150 tahun, 190n133. In this excerpt, Heuken mentions fourteen former Jesuits who left the Society, amongst the 250 Jesuits in total, whom he discusses in his book, yet Banawiratma’s name does not appear at all in this list.

^ Back to text59. J. B. Banawiratma and Johannes Müller, Kontextuelle sozialtheologie: Ein indonesisches Modell, Theologie der Dritten Welt 20 (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1995).

^ Back to text60. See S. O. Robson and V. M. Clara van Groenendael, “In Memoriam P. J. Zoetmulder SJ (1906–1995),” Bijdragen tot de taal-, land, en volkenkunde, no. 153 (1997): 1–14, which includes a bibliography; Heinz Schütte, Dialog, Kritik, Mission: Franz Magnis-Suseno, ein indonesischer Jesuit aus Deutschland (Berlin: Regiospectra, 2013). Schütte’s biography of Magnis-Suseno also includes chapters on two other Jesuits, Josephus Beek (1917‒83), and Werner Ruffing (1928‒84). For the former, see chapter 13, “Exkurs: Pater Josephus Beek SJ,” 151–76, and, for the latter, see chapter 21, “Exkurs: Ein Gegenentwurf: P. Werner Ruffing SJ,” 287–302.

^ Back to text61. Arnulf Camps, Vefie Poels, and Jan Willemsen, eds., Dutch Missionary Activities: An Oral History Project (Nijmegen: Valkhof Pers, 2005); Karel Prent, Missie verhalen: Interviews met missionarissen, vol. 1: Indonesië (Nijmegen: Katholiek Documentatie Centrum, 1989), especially 94–8 on these six Jesuit priests. No Jesuits brothers were interviewed for this publication. As a programme of oral history, the extent of the recordings is between two and seventeen hours and also includes some written documentation.

^ Back to text62. See Susanto, ed., Harta dan Surga. The subtitle of this book (see n54 above) reads in translation: “The Pilgrimage of Jesuits in the Church and Society of Modern Indonesia.”

^ Back to text63. Greg Soetomo, ed., Semangat lebih Yesuit “From Good to Great”: Spirit magis kiprah satu setengah abad Serikat Jesus di Indonesi (Jakarta: Obor, 2009).

^ Back to text64. Anwar Haryono, Diutus untuk Melayani: Kisah Yesuit di Indonesia [Sent to serve: The story of Indonesian Jesuits] (Semarang: Serikat Yesus Provinsi Indonesia, c.2003).

^ Back to text65. B. Christian Triyudo, et al., eds., Peregrinasi: Eksperimen dan cara hidup Yesuit (Jakarta: Indonesian Heritage Society IHS, 2012). Also available on at: (accessed June 15, 2016).

^ Back to text66. See Laksana, Muslim and Catholic Pilgrimage Practices. For the introductory text on the discipline of comparative theology, see Clooney, Comparative Theology: Deep Learning across Religious Boundaries (Malden, MA: Blackwell-Wiley, 2010). For Laksana’s own contribution to this project, see “Comparative Theology: Between Identity and Alterity,” in The New Comparative Theology: Interreligious Insights from the Next Generation, ed. Francis X. Clooney (London: T & T Clark, 2010), 1–20. Laksana’s book is a revised version of his doctoral dissertation, “Journeying to God in Communion with the Other: A Comparative Theological Study of the Muslim and Catholic Pilgrimage Traditions in South Central Java and Their Contributions to the Catholic Theology of Communio sanctorum“ (PhD diss., Boston College, 2011).

Cite this page
Karel Steenbrink, “Jesuits in Indonesia, 1546–2015”, in: Jesuit Historiography Online. Consulted online on 30 March 2017 <>
First published online: 2016

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