After its initial stiff opposition to the Centre’s plan to give Goa’s famous Bom Jesus Basilica for adoption maintenance, Goa Church, led by Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao, has finally given its nod after securing assurance that the Church will have its existing right over this heritage church.
A controversy erupted last week in Goa after it was revealed that the Union government had decided to give the 16th century Bom Jesus Basilica to a private company for maintenance purpose. The decision was taken without consulting the Goa Church or even the State government which is incidentally ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party. As a result, the Goa Church officials as well as State
Archives Minister Vijay Sardesai had immediately opposed the move.The Old Goa-based Bom Jesus Basilica incidentally is the most famous church in Goa visited by lakhs of tourists every year as it has the remains of St Francis Xavier, the 16th century Spanish Jesuit priest who preached Christianity in Goa. The
remains of the missionary saint kept in a casket are permanently on display at the huge church. Once in a decade, the remains are shifted to the nearby Se Cathedral for veneration for a nearly two-month long period. This decennial exhibition draws huge number of pilgrims from all over India and abroad and is a major tourism revenue source for the State government.
Officials of the Goa Church said that they withdraw their opposition for the Basilica’s adoption maintenance after it was clarified that the heritage church would not be taken over the government or the private company and that the adoption would help in preserving it in a better manner. Minister Sardesai too later withdrew his opposition to the move.
The Church has been assured that the adoption maintenance scheme will not lead to the church losing its sanctity nor charges will be collected from the devotees and tourists for entry into the religious shrine. The private company will look after the cleanliness around the shrine and provide various necessary amenities to visitors including canteen and drinking water. The private company may be permitted to charge fees to visitors for these facilities. The details of the contract will be finalized in consultation with the Goa Church officials.
The Church has been assured that even the maintenance activities in the Basilica will be carried out with the permission of the Church authorities so that the sanctity of the centuries old shrine is not affected.
The State government said the memorandum of understanding with the private company will be signed only in consultation with the Goa Church officials.
Presently, the heritage church is in custody of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) which looks after its maintenance while the Church has the rights for religious rites. The priests-in-charge of the shrine also reside at the Basilica’s adjoining structure.
With the adoption maintenance scheme, the church officials believe it will ensure regular payment for preservation of the Basilica which is a major pilgrim tourism destination in the country.
The solution to the row over the adoption maintenance of the
minority community’s religious shrine as come as a major relief for the BJP government both at the State and the Centre levels.