Goa Catholics demand change in poll date

March 7, 2014 by  
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goaGoa, March 5, 2014: Christians account for nearly 30 percent of Goa’s 15 lakh plus population. Catholics and some political parties in Goa have opposed the Election Commission’s decision to hold the elections to the Lok Sabha seats from the state April 17, which clashes with Maundy Thursday, a day of religious significance.

Political parties as well as activists have already petitioned the Election Commission of India (ECI) to change the poll date announced Wednesday.

“In my petition, I have said that Maundy Thursday is a holy day for the Christian community,” lawyer-activist Aires Rodrigues told IANS. He said voters as well as government servants from the community deployed for election duty would find it tough to balance religious obligation and poll duty.

Banker Bruce Rodrigues said: “As a Catholic, Maundy Thursday holds significant importance in our lives as we come to the end of our Lenten season. And that’s in the middle of Holy Week too. It is not a good decision.”

Maundy Thursday is part of the Holy Week which follows the abstinence-marked period of Lent. The Holy Week signifies a spell of reflection and penance and includes Palm Sunday, which remembers Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Maundy Thursday, which commemorates Jesus’ last supper with his disciples; Good Friday, which honours the day of his crucifixion; and Holy Saturday, which focuses on the transition between the crucifixion and resurrection.

Congress spokesperson Durgadas Kamat claimed that minority voting percentage would dip if the ECI went ahead with polling in the state April 17.

“It won’t be difficult to postpone Goa poll dates to after Good Friday. So that everyone can vote,” Kamat said, adding that the party’s Goa unit would petition the ECI to change the dates.

Christians account for nearly 30 percent of Goa’s 15 lakh plus population.

– ians

Chief Minister promises action against vandals *Three Kerala nurses stranded in Saudi

March 14, 2012 by  
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Goa New Chief MinisterGoa, March 14, 2012: Goa archdiocese calls for restraint among Christian and Muslim communities targeted in the attacks.

The chief minister of Goa says that the destruction of gravestones in the state is the handiwork of people unhappy over the recent elections.

Manohar Parrikar of the Bharatiya Janata Party told media persons yesterday that more than a hundred Christian and Muslim gravestones were destroyed in areas where his party’s candidates won last week.

The attacks were on March 10, a day after Parrikar took over as the chief minister. He has assured both communities that the attackers would be brought to justice.

He claimed the attacks were meant to “defame” his government and warned that the “strictest action” would be taken against those responsible.

Forty-five headstones and crosses were broken at the Guardian Angel Church cemetery in Curchorem, about 50 km south of the state capital Panaji.

Vandals also targeted 67 graves in a Muslim cemetery in Curchorem.

A roadside cross and the roof of a chapel in Mapusa near Panaji were also damaged.

Police have been instructed to use all resources to identify and arrest suspects in the attacks, Parrikar said, adding that patrols in the areas have been increased and additional police have been deployed to secure religious sites.

“At the moment, we have not got any leads in our investigation,” said South Goa police superintendent Arwind Gawas.

Parrikar also said he would consider invoking the National Security Act and that he would “make sure that the culprits remain behind bars forever.”

Compensation has been offered to repair graves and a cash reward of 50,000 rupees (about US$1,000) has been announced for any information leading to an arrest in the case.

Meanwhile, the Goa archdiocese has urged restraint among communities angered by the vandal attacks.

In a statement this week, the Goa Church said people’s final resting places were next in importance only to houses of worship and therefore demanded the utmost respect and veneration.

Akbar Ali, a member of the Goa Muslim Forum, said he did not know who was behind the attacks.

“The police are investigating and we are waiting for the outcome.”

– ucan

Three Kerala nurses stranded in Saudi


RiyadhSaudi Arabia, March 11, 2012: Three nurses from Kerala have been left stranded in Saudi Arabia for more than two years, with no source of income and no documents to come back to the country. “We have been unemployed for more than two years, and are unable to return home because we do not have the papers,” Saramma V, one of the nurses, informed from Riyadh, the Saudi capital. “The clinic which we worked suddenly closed down on January 3, 2010, without giving us any prior notice or options for job change. Since then we are stranded here and can’t work nor return home,” said Saramma. The other two nurses are Subhadra O K and Sreelatha V N. All the three nurses were working with a clinic in Riyadh for the past many years under the sponsorship of a Saudi national who passed away in 2009.

Later the management of the clinic was given to his son who transferred it to another Saudi national. After the new person took over, it closed down.

An organisation based in Saudi Arabia, that provides legal assistance, has now petitioned the Indian ambassador in Saudi Arabia, requesting the immediate intervention of the embassy for the three nurses.

A labour court in May last year issued a judgement favouring the nurses, ordering the sponsor to pay us wages and immediately return all our documents. He filed an appeal in the High Court and our case was rejected in January this year and now they are helpless. The Indian embassy is afraid to take up the issue against the Saudi authorities.

– persecution.in

Priest on attempted murder charge

February 28, 2012 by  
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Priest on attempted murder chargeGoa, February 28, 2012: Around 1,500 others also detained after policemen attacked.

A Goa parish priest and more than 1,500 parishioners have been charged with attempted murder after six policemen were attacked and injured on Saturday night.

Enraged parishioners attacked the policemen after they turned up at around 9pm at St Francis Xavier Church in Velim to talk to Father Romano Gonsalves.

The crowd thought the policemen had come to try and intimidate the parish priest who was raided recently by income-tax and police officials.

Fr Gonsalves tried to shield the policemen in his bedroom but the parishioners dragged them out and beat them up.

“The attack was unprovoked. The unarmed policemen had gone there officially to conduct a pre-poll assessment,” Superintendent of Police Atmaram Deshpande said.

The priest said the policemen had come to his church, around 50km south of the state capital Panaji, to inquire whether the parishioners would be boycotting upcoming elections.

The earlier raid had sparked a public outcry and parishioners had demanded an apology, threatening to boycott assembly polls on March 3 if they did not get one.

“I told them I could only speak for myself,” the priest said.

Thinking the priest was in trouble, church workers rang the bell, which attracted a crowd attending an election rally, the priest said.

Senior Congress leader Shantaram Naik criticized the police for the way they handled the situation.

“They had no business to go there at night,” he said.

Forest Minister Filipe Neri Rodrigues, who is contesting the seat, also condemned the police.

They had acted in bad faith and committed gross violations, all the more worse since a tense situation was sorting itself out and it being so close to polling day, he said.

– ucan

Income-tax authorities asked to apologise to priest

February 11, 2012 by  
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Election CommissionGoa, February 10, 2012: The official also called for the identity of the informant of “non-credible information.” Election officials have asked the income-tax authorities in Goa to apologise to the Goa parish priest for conducting a raid on him on the basis of false information.

District Election Officer Sandip Jacques wrote in a letter to the tax authorities that it was “appropriate” the officials tender an apology to Fr. Roman Gonsalves, parish priest of St Francis Xavier Church at Velim for the raid on Feb 6.

The letter, following the parishioners protests, also called for the identity of the informant of “non-credible information” and appropriate action be initiated.

Meanwhile, Congress Member of Parliament Shantaram Naik has demanded the arrest of the informant to avoid communal tensions in the state during elections.

He has submitted a written complaint to federal finance minister Pranab Mukerjee.

Fr Francisco Caldeira, spokesperson of Goa archdiocese has demanded a probe into the incident.

The parishioners have also faxed a memorandum to the chief of the Election Commission of India, S Y Qureishi, following the state Election Commissioner Narayan Navti’s “irresponsible statement” that Rs 6000 was seized from the church.

– bosco de sousa eremita

Income-tax officials raid priest, parishioners up in arms

February 9, 2012 by  
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Income Tax DepartmentGoa, February 08, 2012: Members of a Goa church have demanded an apology for an income-tax raid on their parish priest, claiming he was targeted for making a pronouncement about how to vote in an upcoming election.

Parishioners said Fr. Roman Gonsalves, parish priest of St Francis Xavier Church, Velim, was raided on February 6.

Fr. Gonsalves said: “The tax officials interrogated me as though I was a criminal and rummaged through my belongings. They wanted to know how much money the church had, who paid salaries to the teachers of my school, and checked my bank pass book. After a two-hour search yielded nothing, they left.”

The priest said he suspected political vendetta for asking the parishioners not to fall for allurements of any kind while exercising their franchise.

The Diocesan Society of Social Justice and Peace had issued an advisory for the March 3 assembly elections to be read in all churches in the state.

Adlet Mascarenhas, member of the Church committee, said that the parishioners will be meeting the Collector today and demand the identity of the caller who reportedly alerted the IT officials that the priest had “stacks of cash”.

“We will give an ultimatum of 48 hours for an apology to be read out by the official in the parish, failing which we will launch a mass movement against the authorities,” he said.

Mascarenhas said it was surprising that the three income-tax officials came with a “summary inquiry of books” along with three police officers and one Election Commission official.

“Why a priest was raided is beyond understanding. The civil authorities’ action was uncalled for,” said Fr Francisco Caldeira, spokesman of the Goa archdiocese.

“There is so much money being distributed in some constituencies by politicians. Why are they not being raided by income-tax officials?” asked Delhia Fernandes, a parishioner.

– ucan

IFFI clash with St. Xavier feast: GCWU petitions Sonia Gandhi *Protesters condemn government

December 3, 2011 by  
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Feast of St Francis Xavier GoaGoa, December 01, 2011: The Goan Catholic Welfare Union (GCWU) has strongly condemned the adamant attitude of government for refusing to re-schedule the closing date of IFFI which is clashing with the Feast of St. Francis Xavier thus playing with the sentiments of the people. We have faxed letters to the Prime Minister of India, Mr Manmohan Singh and the Chairperson of UPA, Sonia Gandhi stated Juino De Souza, President of GCWU.

We have written stating that it is the bounden duty of every government to protect the religious rights of its people and specially of the minority community that is guaranteed under our constitution and it is regretted that the Minister of Information & Broadcasting, (Smt) Ambika Soni and the Chief Minister of Goa, Shri Digambar Kamat are hurting the religious sentiments of not only the Catholic community but entire goan community by holding the closing ceremony of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) currently underway at Goa on the 3rd December 2011 that is coinciding with the feast of St. Francis Xavier, Patron Saint of Goa which is a public holiday declared in his memory.

The letter further states that on this day lakhs devotees of all faiths converge at Old Goa to pay their respects, homage and offer prayers and devotion in honour St Francis Xavier. It is therefore a gross violation of religious rights for the government to have IFFI closing ceremony sponsored by the Central government on this holiday with gala dinners and fireworks and is an insult and attack on the religious sentiments of the people who believe in St. Francis Xavier and whose relics are preserved in the BASILICA BOM JESUS for all to venerate.

There is an uproar at Goa with people staging agitations, dharnas and black flag protests during IFFI which is showing the Congress led government in Goa in poor light. The BJP has also addressed the issue  calling the Congress party communal.

The people are furious that the Congress government instead of taking responsibility and applying the right correctives are instead giving lame excuses and making incorrect statements by placing blame on extraneous bodies such as the International film Committee and the Film Federation of India who have no role to play in changing the closing date of IFFI, thus taking the people for a ride.

We have brought to their notice that all the people are asking is to advance the closing ceremony from 3rd. December to 2nd December 2011 which is no big deal. Let the people be free to focus on the Feast of St. Francis Xavier with any diversion and which is their right.  I shall thank you on behalf of ‘The Goan Catholic Welfare Union’ to kindly use your good offices and intervene in this religious matter urgently so as to avoid the clashing of IFFI closing date with that of the feast of St. Francis Xavier.

Copies of the letter have been sent to the Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister, A. K. Anthony, Minister of Information, Smt Ambika Soni and the Senior  BJP leader L.K. Advani.

Protestors against holding IFFI on feast of St. Francis Xavier

Goan Catholic Welfare UnionGoa, December 03, 2011: The Goan Catholic Welfare Union (GCWU) and leaders of NGO’s namely the Pillerne Citizens Forum, Villagers Group of Goa, Porvorim Residents Welfare Association (PRWA), Goemchea Rakhondarancho Awaz (GRA), Saligao Citizens Committee and other lay persons staged a protest dharna chanting slogans condemning the government’s adamant and challenging attitude in going ahead with IFFI closing ceremony followeded with gala dinners, wine and fireworks on the sacred feast day of St. Francis Xavier by ignoring the sentiments of the people.

The participants were carrying a long black banner and holding placards with captions such as IFFI-Digambar Kamat stop the sacrilege,  Respect the rights and sentiments of the people, D’ont destroy goan culture, etc. They paid rich tribute to St Francis Xavier while holding his portrait and singing hyms and praises to the great patron saint in konkani.  Goehcho sahib amkam zai, amkam zai, they chanted. Ek do, ek do,  IFFI ko fek do.  

Addressing the demonstration, Juino De Souza President GCWU said that it is the question of attack on the religious rights and sentiments of the people. IFFI is a distraction and diversion and we have come here directly from Old Goa after hearing the first mass at 5.30 am to show our solidarity with the large section of goans whose sentiments have been hurt with an unjust decision and government will pay the price in the ensuing elections.

Speaking on the occasion Fr. Antonio Rodrigues a senior priest and scholar said today is a great feast of Goa and our goan culture has been destroyed. This is the time when all of us should united to defeat those who are out to wipe out Goa.

Joao Phillip Pereira a social activist said that people are not fools to be deceived by false excuses of vested interests who seem to have no respect for St. Francis Xavier who died on the 3rd December and his death anniversary is celebrated with prayers and devotion. 

Yatish Naik lawyer and activist said St Francis Xavier is not only respected by Catholics, but by people of all faiths who flock to Goa to venerate and pay homage to the patron saint and we do not require IFFI that is costing over 100 crores to the goans. 

Floriano Lobo of GRA stated that IFFI is not wanted by any other state and hence was pushed into Goa during the Parrikar regime. St Xavier is our protector and he will work a a miracle to help goans get rid of IFFI forever.

Joe Carneiro, Joaquim Rodrigues, William Pinto, Hermie Caldeira, George Mascaranhas, Roque Dias,  Alex D’Souza, Merwyn D’Souza, Bosco Souza, Prakash Bandodkar, Rex D’Souza and others also expressed their feelings. 
– juino desouza

Goa Catholics seek Advani’s help

November 4, 2011 by  
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Goa ChristianGoa, November 3, 2011: Disillusioned with the Congress-led ruling coalition, Goa’s Catholics have made overtures to arch-foes the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP -Indian people’s party) in a bid to get support for their demands.

An eight-member delegation, including priests and Religious, on Nov. 2 met BJP leader L K Advani who was on a two-day visit to the state as part of what he calls his public-awakening tour against corruption.

Fr Max Gonsalves, who led the delegation, informed Advani of their unsuccessful efforts to get the government to change the dates of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) which clashed with the feast of Goa’s patron saint Francis Xavier.

The delegation also asked the BJP leader to prove his secular credentials by considering Catholic candidates for upcoming assembly elections.

Defending the decision to meet with the leader of a party that is regularly accused of not being friendly towards Christians, delegation member Joe Carneiro said: “As Congress is not paying heed to our requests, we decided to meet the other side, hoping we may get some of our aims done”.

The delegation also told the BJP leader that the state government only pays lip service to the Christian community. They claimed the western state does not have a minority commission and the government does little to protect the rights and interest of Catholics.

During the 40-minute meeting, the Catholics also expressed their disgust at rampant corruption, especially with regard to illegal mining in the state.

The BJP leader promised to look into the matter and tried to reassure them that he bears no enmity towards Catholics, pointing out that he was educated by Catholics at St Patrick’s school in Karachi.

– ucan

Priests demand police official’s dismissal

June 23, 2011 by  
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Goa Police

Goa Police

Two Goan priests demanded the dismissal of a police inspector for helping a hotel promoter cover up the alleged murder of a parishioner near Panaji on June 22. Fr. Kevin Rodrigues, a chaplain at Arossim church, and Fr. Eremito Rebello met Director General of Police (DGP) Aditya Arya and sought the dismissal of police Inspector Jivba Dalvi. According to them, Dalvi had tried to cover up the murder of Melvyn Gomes, a resident of Arossim village, 40 km from Panaji in south Goa. Gomes was found dead in the septic tank of a holiday resort near the village. “The DGP told us that he had transferred Dalvi and that he will not be in charge of the investigation any more. But we want him dismissed. He has tried to cover up a homicide by dismissing it as a drowning death,” Rodrigues told reporters.

He claimed that Gomes was privy to critical information about an upcoming real estate project, because of which he was killed. Rebello, rector of the Blessed Vaz shrine, said that the entire village of Arossim was up in arms over the behaviour of the police officer in relation to the case. “The police even ignored the injuries on the body which were visible. They are intent in covering up the case. The Goa Police will have to face an agitation if the culprits are not brought to book,” he said. Rebello met the DGP along with ruling Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislator Mickky Pacheco.