Christians and political leaders pay tribute to Spanish Jesuit priest

Published Wednesday, November 11, 2020  |  
(Photo: By Sanjay Vaidya - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)Father Valles

Christians and political leaders in the country pay tribute to Spanish Jesuit priest, who upheld the Gujarati culture and left an ineradicable mark in Gujarati literature.

Father Carlos González Vallés passed away on November 9, at the age of 95 in Madrid, Spain. He had celebrated his 96th birthday a few days ago, on November 4. He had good health overall, but had suffered from symptoms of Alzheimer for the past three to four months.

“It is obviously a great loss to the Jesuits of Gujarat and Christians here but also sad for the people of other faiths because his writing was so simple and appealing to all that it could unite us all,” Father Alpesh Macwan, socius of Gujarat Jesuit province, told UCA News.

Though Father Vallés was from Spain, he had received Indian citizenship. “His heart was always in India and especially for the youths to whom he dedicated his life by making literature and mathematics simple subjects which people could understand,” Father Macwan said.

“Even the government has used a textbook written by Father Valles. His writing contacted all without discriminating and that void can’t be filled after his demise.”

Paying tribute to the departed author, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his tweet said, “Father Vallés endeared himself to many, especially in Gujarat. He distinguished himself in diverse areas such as mathematics and Gujarati literature. He was also passionate about serving society. Saddened by his demise. May his soul rest in peace.” 

Chief Minister of Gujarat, Vijay Rupani said, “Though he was not a born Gujarati, Father Vallés became a savaya Gujarati (better than Gujarati) by his contribution to Gujarati literature which included a number of books, essays, travelogues etc. His demise has left a huge void in the Gujarati literary world.”

Father Vallés was born in Logrono, Spain in 1925. He came to India in 1949 and lived here for nearly five decades. He had made Gujarat his home and was always drawn towards Gujarati language.

For over 20 years, Father Vallés taught mathematics at St Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad. That is when he was drawn to Gujarati and started to learn the language.

“…I had realised that English, however much extended in the academic field, was a foreign language in India. It was enough to teach mathematics, but not to reach the hearts. The heart is reached through the mother tongue. In my region that was Gujarati, which also was Mahatma Gandhi’s mother tongue. I studied it during the ‘language year’ prescribed for all Jesuit seminarians,” Father Valles’ website elaborated, proving his passion for the language.

On April 24, 1958, he was ordained to priesthood.

Along with teaching mathematics, father Vallés was an established essayist in Gujarati, for which the state government honored him with the best essayist award for five years in a row.

In 1978, he became the first foreigner to receive Ranjitram Suvarnachandrak, the highest literary award in Gujarati.

“Despite being an European, he overcame hurdles of culture and languages and achieved heights in Gujarati literature. His particular achievement was sprinkling deep thinking and sensitivity in humour,” Jignesh Upadhyay, professor of Gujarati at DH Arts College, Rajkot said.

Father Vallés wrote more than 70 books containing essays dealing with spirituality, religion, morality, simplicity, youth and education. His books were also translated into other European languages and Chinese.

In 1995, he received Acharya Kakasaheb Kalelkar Award for Universal Harmony, for promoting harmony among different religious communities in India. In 1997 he received the Ramakrishna Jaidalal Harmony Award.