Goans eagerly await canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz
Thousands travel from India to Sri Lanka to attend ceremony
Indians from Goa make their way to the Joseph Vaz canonization Mass in Colombo, January 14. (Photo Quintus Colombage)
When Blessed Joseph Vaz is canonized by Pope Francis in Sri Lanka today, there will be a sizable crowd from India's southwest coast singing hymns in what was Vaz’s native language.
“We will be singing the closing hymn in Konkani, the mother tongue of the saint”, said Sister Lidia Fernandez, a Goan nun who is from the same village where Blessed Joseph Vaz was born in 1651.
“He is a household name in Goa and he is part of our family,” said the sister whose convent is located at the paternal house of the saint.
Blessed Joseph Vaz left his native Goa to evangelize in Sri Lanka under the hardline rule of the Calvinist Dutch colonials.
He is credited with having revived the Catholic faith in the country, using disguises and learning the local Sinhala and Tamil languages to meet secretly with underground Catholics. He died in 1711.
In Goa, Vaz is a source of extreme pride. The patron of the archdiocese, Blessed Vaz has long been venerated in Goa.
“We are extremely proud of being part of this canonization ceremony”, said Father Loyola Perera, secretary to the Archbishop of Goa, who led more than 1,500 Goan Catholics to the canonization ceremony.
“The Catholics of Goa and Sri Lanka are brothers and sisters”, said Agatha Cutinho, a 65-year-old laywoman who came with her son for the ceremony.
Cutinho is one of 16 Goan singers in the Indian choir who will sing in Konkani, the native language spoken by Catholics in the coastal regions of Goa and Mangalore.
The canonization has drawn huge crowds from India and farther afield, while others will be watching from home, said Father Loyola.
“It is a joy not only for Sri Lanka, but also for the Indian Church”, he said.
“I have seen people from Goa, Mangalore, Mumbai and Kerala in the crowd, and some of them even came from the United States, Australia and Portugal.”
Father Loyola said every church in the coastal belt from Goa to Mangalore will be holding Holy Mass at the same time as Blessed Joseph Vaz is canonized.
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