Pope Leo entrusted the execution of his plan to build a seminary for Indians to the zealous Archbishop Ladislaus Zaleski, then Apostolic Delegate for India and Ceylon. Msgr. Zaleski enlisted the services of the dynamic, courageous Fr. Sylvain Grosjean, the former Superior of the Jesuit Bengal Mission, to whom he entrusted the running of the seminary.The Papal Seminary owes its origin, under God, to the far-sighted Pope Leo XIII. Already in 1893, with his vision of an indigenous clergy for our country – expressed in his now celebrated phrase, Filii tui, India, administri tibi salutis (Your sons, O India, shall be the ministers of your salvation), he conceived the idea of a ‘General Seminary’ for the training of priests in India.
The seed of the future Papal Seminary was planted in a small rented house in Kandy in 1893 with a fledgling group of eleven students. By 1909, in a spacious new building, the Seminary could count more than 100 students from 20 dioceses. In 1926 the Seminary was empowered by Rome to confer degrees in philosophy and theology including the doctorate. This gave it a distinctive mark, setting it apart from the existing institutes of priestly formation in India at that time. The syllabus of the Kandy Pontifical College, as it was called, went through two revisions to suit its new academic status. In 1940, the revised statutes were approved by the Congregation for Catholic Education. This step marked the setting up of the Pontifical Athenaeum – renamed in 1970 “Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth”. This became an autonomous academic body, while remaining attached to the Papal Seminary.
With the dawn of national independence in 1947 – and the declaration of Ceylon’s independence the following year – the question of a change of location of the Kandy Seminary began to be mooted in ecclesiastical circles. After much consultation and discussion among the Bishops, it was finally decided to transfer the Seminary to Pune, where the Jesuits already had their house of studies, De Nobili College. This major step, a veritable Exodus, took place in June 1955. The transfer began a fresh chapter in the life and growth of the Papal Seminary. Its new location, in the cultural and spiritual heart of Maharashtra and its interaction with men and women religious, whose communities began to settle on the campus, all contributed to a certain widening of horizons and general enrichment.The post-Conciliar movement too brought its measure of change and renewal.
The Papal Seminary celebrated its centenary in an appropriately grand style in October 1993, under the rectorship of Fr. Noel Sheth SJ, a renowned Sanskrit scholar. The theme of the Centenary Year was: Sarva-jiva-sukham; sarva-dharma-sakhyam, i.e., the happiness of all living beings and friendship among all religions. The Papal Seminary celebrates the Golden Jubilee of its existence in Pune in October 2005. The theme of the three day celebrations was “Rooted in Christ, Committed to serve.”
The Papal Seminary and Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth can take a legitimate pride in having given the Church in India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan as many as 63 bishops, including four Cardinals, and more than 6000 priests and religious sisters in the course of the past century. Today nearly 500 students from all over the country and even abroad benefit considerably from Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth. It offers a rich variety of courses on Western and on Indian subjects in philosophy and theology. Much emphasis is laid especially on Indian spirituality, inter-religious dialogue and social involvement. The Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth celebrated in February 2002 its Platinum Jubilee as a Degree Conferring Institution. The Papal Seminary celebrated in a moderate but meaningful way the 50th year of its establishment in Pune from October 25 to 27, 2005. A large number of our old students participated in the celebrations.
We are humbly grateful to God that, through the efforts of our staff and students, we can reach out to thousands of our brothers and sisters of all faiths all over the country in directly priestly ministry as well as in work for justice, peace and dialogue, endeavouring to make our Centenary motto a reality. The Papal Seminary and Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth thus aspire to be agents for the building up of the Kingdom of God in this subcontinent today and in the years to come.