Income-tax officials raid priest, parishioners up in arms

February 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Goa, India, newsletter-lead, Persecution

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

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