India - navy blockades island church

  • Goa

Church on island of Anjediva

Church on island of Anjediva

For the seventh year running, the Indian navy has denied pilgrims access to an historic church on the island of Anjediva near Goa.

On Tuesday, more than 300 Catholics and Hindus from Goa and neighboring Karnataka state tried to visit the church to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Springs. The church was built by the Portuguese ten years before they conquered Goa in 1510 and has attracted many thousands of pilgrims since then.

Things started to change in 1991 when the Goan government gave the 370,032-hectare island to the navy to build a US$268 million naval base. The navy agreed to allow civilians to visit the church twice a year, for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord,  on 2 February, and the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi on 4 October.

In 2004, a Hindu group claimed it had the right to celebrate a Hindu feast on the island. The group threatened violent protests if Goan Catholics were allowed access.

The authorities have now banned anyone from going to the island.

Anthony Martins, a Catholic from Goa, said this year some 300 pilgrims turned up seeking permission to pray at the church. They included some Hindu fishermen from Karnataka’s Karwar region, who traditionally also pray at the church.

Godfrey Gonsalves, a layman leading Catholic efforts to gain access to the church, said there were rumors the navy had agreed to allow entry this year.

On 3 February, several people attended a meeting which called for the ban, imposed by the deputy commissioner of Karwar, to be lifted. Gonsalves says the ban is illegal since Karwar’s commissioner has no jurisdiction over the island, which is still part of Goa.

Source: Fides

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