UCA News

India

Cultural body accused of neglecting Goa's basilica

Agency that functions under a pro-Hindu government accused of neglect of the Christian heritage building

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Updated: April 24, 2020 07:00 AM GMT
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Cultural body accused of neglecting Goa's basilica

A file image of the Basilica of Bom Jesus that the Portuguese built in Goa, western India. The Archeological Survey of India that maintains the building is accused of neglect. (Photo: UCA News)

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India's federal agency that protects heritage monuments has been accused of neglecting a 17th-century basilica in Goa that houses the mortal remains of Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier.

Father Patricio Fernandes, rector of the Basilica of Bom Jesus, has complained to state and federal officials that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has neglected the maintenance of the basilica.

"As a result of ASI's sheer negligence, the basilica has sustained considerable damage and is in serious danger of further deterioration," said Father Fernandes' April 21 letter to the state's chief minister, ASI officials, the Church and media.

Jesuit missionaries built the basilica in 1605 when Goa was the center of the Church's mission in Asia during the colonial era. Goa was a Portuguese colony for 451 years until 1961.

The state agency's failure to undertake repairs on time "gives a clear indication that the basilica," a landmark of Christianity in India, "has not been a priority for the ASI," the letter said.

"Whether it has been the shoddy repair work, the poor drinking water and toilet facilities, lack of barricades or general maintenance work, the ASI has been guilty of gross neglect," Father Fernandes said.

ASI's state branch is empowered to protect and maintain government-listed heritage buildings. Goa, where the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party runs the government, houses several Portuguese-built churches and monasteries.

The complaint, also sent to the state's governor and chief minister, said it aims to "highlight the colossal negligence, incompetence and inefficiency" of the ASI in ensuring the proper maintenance of the basilica, "a world heritage monument."

The ASI had planned to undertake repairs of the side roof, false ceilings and floorings last May, ahead of the monsoon season in June, but the work was postponed to January this year, the letter said.

The work was started in January but was abandoned within a month. Then the delay was prolonged under the guise of the ongoing nationwide Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, the priest said.

Despite many a reminder about termites attacking the "priceless statues" and the glided altar, where an imposing statue of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola stands, no action has been initiated, the complaint said.

Due to years of neglect, "true heritage artifacts have been left to crumble," the priest said.

Security at the basilica, which contains the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, is also weak despite thousands of visitors thronging the area daily, the priest said, recalling the attacks on Christian churches in New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

Pavements pose a threat to older people and children. "Repeated requests to ensure that the pavements fit in with the landscape have fallen on deaf the ears."

"The toilets at the basilica, which are maintained by the ASI, are in a state of utter neglect and in need of constant repairs and replacement," Father Fernandes noted.

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