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Indian Catholics urged to respect religious sentiments

Lately, Goa has witnessed tensions between Christians and Hindus due to some objectionable statements
Tourists walk inside the premises of the Basilica of Bom Jesus which is part of the Churches and Convents of Goa World Heritage Site in Old Goa on March 14, 2021

Tourists walk inside the premises of the Basilica of Bom Jesus which is part of the Churches and Convents of Goa World Heritage Site in Old Goa on March 14, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

Published: September 11, 2023 11:38 AM GMT
Updated: September 11, 2023 12:10 PM GMT

An Indian cardinal has warned priests against hurting "the religious feelings of others" after the political head of a coastal state in western India announced strict action against those criticizing religion and religious figures.

“Those who make statements that hurt others’ religious sentiments will be dealt with strictly by the government,” Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said on Sept. 8.

Sawant belongs to the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was responding to a journalist’s query on a video showing a Catholic priest belittling Hindu religion during a sermon at the pilgrimage shrine of Velankanni in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The video went viral on social media but the priest, whose identity is not yet disclosed, is said to be an assistant parish priest in the Archdiocese of Goa.

“No one should criticize anyone's religion,” Sawant said at a press conference. Also present was his ministerial colleague, Nilesh Cabral, a Catholic who holds the portfolios of legislative affairs, law and judiciary among others.

“It is up to each one to choose which god one should believe in and have faith,” the chief minister said, adding that such cases would be dealt with sternly henceforth.

“So, Hindus or Christians should not criticize each other's religions at all. If anyone tries to speak in this manner or hurts religious sentiments, the government will not stay silent. Strict action will be taken against such people,” he added.

Cabral said that Goans are tolerant and it is wrong to disturb the peace in the state.

“Religious leaders should not use religious platforms to speak against other religions," he said while pointing out that some people have even been arrested for such behavior in the past.

Cardinal Filipe Neri Ferrao, the archbishop of Goa, on Sept. 9 expressed his “deep regret” over “certain recent pronouncements made by some members of the Church.”

He said the statements have “gone against the authentic spirit of inter-religious dialogue and reciprocal respect.”

“We exhort the Catholic community to abide by the teachings of the Church and avoid saying or doing anything that could hurt the religious feelings of others,” the Cardinal said in a statement.

He assured that the Church leadership has taken appropriate action against the priests involved and also issued stern warnings to avoid such utterances in the future.

But the prelate did not say what action had been taken against erring priests.

“It is distressing to note that certain expressions used recently in public by some members of the Catholic Church may have hurt the religious sentiments of people of other religious traditions,” Ferrao added.

Goa is considered a Christian stronghold as they make up around 25 percent of the state's 1.5 million people. But lately, it has witnessed tensions between Christians and Hindus due to some objectionable statements made by members of both religions.

In August, Father Bolmax Pereira, parish priest of St. Francis Xavier Church, stirred a controversy by saying during a sermon that a popular Hindu warrior king was not God.

Police filed a case against him and the priest managed to avoid arrest with a court granting him bail.

Also in August, the state’s BJP government was accused by their political opponents of hurting the sentiments of the Christian community by referring to the ‘Basilica of Bom Jesus’ in Goa, a heritage monument. The state's information and publicity department issued a press note calling it as ‘Basilica of Bomb Jesus.’

The press note was withdrawn by the department which sent a revised press release.

“Why is BJP hurting religious sentiments with such acts,” asked Girish Chodankar, president of Goa Congress unit.

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6 Comments on this Story
Bharat is becoming a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by sadists hiding behind religion.
Funny you didnt bother to say anything against the Indian Christian priest who said wrongful things against Hindus which is basically blasphemous. It would be the equivalent of saying Christ was not a messenger. Tolerance is two ways. Stop blaming the BJP for everything you dont like and perhaps try and help fix it. Be the change you want to see.
Everyone should be able to criticize and say anything against any religion without any blasphemy laws applying on them. Religion is the curse on the modern society, a real opium
Coming from a product of inquisitors that's rich... but what can one expect from bigots such as you. First find out what hate your father HASTON FERNANDES was spewing from the pulpit against Hinduism.
You guys are such spindoctors, in one sentence you introduce the minister as member of a Hindu party and then as a side remark you mention that a catholic is also a minister in the same party's government. Instead of focusing on the derogatory remarks made by the catholic priest going by the name of HASTON FERNANDES whom you choose not to name. You commit inquisitions and then claim victimhood next level hypocrisy
@aashisg/h: yes the chief minister, a hindu is from the bjp party. his minister, a catholic is also from the bjp party. ANYTHING WRONG? i am not aware of your allegation as to what fr haston fernandes said but..... WHAT DOES THIS STORY HAVE TO DO WITH THE INQUISITION? you were not born nor i was born then, but learnt about it. WHY DID IT HAPPEN? AND WHO WAS BEHIND IT? WHO CARRIED IT OUT? LEARN THE FACTS. some of the catholics today in goa are the consequences of the inquisition. some of their hindu/catholic forefathers also were tortured/killed during that brutal time. LEARN TO READ THE FACTS BEFORE MAKING NASTY COMMENTS.
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