A Jesuit Polyglot and Scholar of Buddhism
Fr. Rosario Rocha SJ, a Jesuit polyglot, scholar of Buddhism and former Provincial of Goa Province, left this world in the evening of 18th October 2021, at Rubi Hall Clinic, Pune. The funeral was held at the Papal Seminary, Pune, on 19th October afternoon.
The only child of his parents Alleluia Rocha and Anjelina Rocha – Fr Rosario Rocha, popularly known as Rocha among Jesuits, was born in Benaulim, Goa on 9th March, 1952. He did his high school studies at Loyola High School, Margao, Goa, and joined the Goa-Pune Jesuit Province on 20th June 1970 at Xavier Training College (XTC), Desur, Belgavi, Karnataka. After completing his novitiate and juniorate, he did his philosophy and theology at Jnana Deep (JD). Since he was keen on the study of Buddhism, he did B.A., M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D. and post-doctorate studies from the universities of Baroda, Pune, Delhi, Boston and Harvard. For this, he studied Pali and Sanskrit languages. As a polyglot, besides his mother tongue Konknni, he was well versed in English, French, Portuguese, Marathi, Hindi, German, Pali and Sanskrit. He knew how to understand and read Gujarati, Urdu, and Latin. He was ordained as a priest at Benaulim on 1st May, 1985.
Residing at De Nobili College (DNC), Pune, in 1991 he began to teach Buddhism and Indian Philosophy at JD, for philosophy and theology students.
On 3rd December 1995, he took his Final Vows at DNC. He held many important designations. He was the Secretary of the DNC Trust; Dean of Theology at JD (1997-2000); Provincial of Goa Province (21st October 2011 to 20th October 2017). Then he took a sabbatical year, after which he was at the Pedro Arrupe Institute (PAI), Raia, Goa, doing pastoral works. As a scholar, he thought he should go back to Pune. So he was at Snehasadan, Pune (2019-20). Due to his very poor health conditions, he returned to St. Britto’s, Mapusa. He recovered, and from 2021 he was appointed as the spiritual director of the Papal Seminary.
Beside his academic work, as animator of JDV Konkan Sabha, he also tried to promote the appreciation for the Konknni language and culture among its lovers and admirers, while in Pune. He was also in great demand as a spiritual guide, to give recollection talks and Ignatian retreats for religious men and women.
The theology of religion, the philosophy of religion and comparative philosophy of religion, were his main concern. He discovered that what is predominant in all religions is “the search for not just ordinary meaning, but the search for a deep meaning of life and also of the divine.”
Rocha has challenged us by saying, “How are we looking at the world today, how are we looking at our own identity and how do we need to learn to inter-relate. One can go solo in many different things, but to build society today, to build communities today, one has to have a very dialogical approach. A dialogical approach does not look at the negatives of others, but looks at the positives.”
For him Pope Francis was his model. Rocha was a good thinker, scholar, and a teacher. The hallmark of his life was simplicity of life and humility which he maintained till the end.
Pratapananda Naik, SJ