Towards a Liberated and Liberating Church in Goa

Image Source: Hindustan Times

The Church in Goa cannot be dismissed from the history of Goa. As we celebrate the liberation day of Goa it might be apt to understand the trajectory of the Church in Goa in a our post-liberation society. Though the Church per se is not reducible with the colonial era alone, it birth as well as its links with the colonial times refuses to die in the consciousness of many of our fellow Goans in the Post-colonial times. One might contest reductionisms involved in the views of honourable and esteemed Tistao de Braganza Cunha in his famous essay ‘De-nationalization of Goans’ as the idea of nation is younger than the colonization and Christianization of Goa. Neither is the notion of Rasthra is exactly translatable to the idea of nation borrowed from the West . We might argue that Rasthra or Rasthram is closer to the notion Raj and kingdom. Although there may be semantic, temporal and geographical discrepancies with the evolution of the notion of nation and nationalism thereof, we cannot prevent anyone from viewing the Church from the vantage point of colonization. This means the shadow of colonial past certainly flows both within it as well as outside it visible boundaries. The issues is how did the Church coped with it in the post-liberation society in Goa? The question becomes pointed if we ask: is the church liberated and acquired a liberative presence in Goan society? The answer appears to be a strong affirmative one though may not be to the satisfaction of everyone.

The colonial era lives in multiple and complex ways in our post-colonial society and afflicts all Goans to different degrees. Hence, we cannot treat the colonial era as a tabula rasa and brush it under the carpet. Hence, in the post-liberation Goa, the Church in Goa has embarked on a path of decolonization with a relatively great degree of success. The council of Vatican II also became a graced occasion that provided a theological impetus to the process of Indigenization of the local Church in Goa. Hence, there came about a great liturgical revolution and Konkani, the mother tongue of the Goans became the official language of worship in the Church. Popular Goan religious practices like offering flowers and lighting of candles and other devotions came to be encouraged. Education was viewed as the great priority for the annihilation of poverty and greater national integration. Hence, immediately after liberation schools were established at several villages soon after liberation. With the reigns of highest leadership in the Church coming into the hands of the sons of the soil, the Church in Goa developed a more indigenous vision of life for discipleship of Christ led by its local clergy. With this pastoral ministry Konkani continues to play a central role in the life and work of the Church even today. The administration of the Church goods, which resembles the temple committees,which was introduced by the Portuguese in the Church, was democratized to include all people, especially the weak and the poor. This process of inclusion continues today through dialogical institutions like parish councils and small Christian communities. The preferential option for the poor and faith formation of the lay Catholics through the establishment of Caritas Goa and other centres like catechetical, family, liturgical etc.

The Church in Goa has successfully joined the people’s struggles in post-liberation Goa. The post-colonial Church in Goa has been greeted as an activist Church. The Church has always mobilized the faithful to respond generously to most of the natural calamities and human tragedies like riots and mass killings affecting the people across our country. The activist face of the Church in the post-liberation Goa began to emerge in the seventies with the agitation against the Zuari Agro Chemicals (1973), The Raponnkars agitation (1974). In the eighties, the Church fought against the commercialization of tourism and carnival. Later it came on the streets for Konkani in the official language agitation. The Church opposed some dubious projects of development like the Konkan railway ,Nylon 66 , Meta strips, the special economic zones and regional plan 2011 along with other Goan communities. Though not successful in every case, the Church definitely expressed solidarity with the struggling people. During the last assembly elections, the Church is given the credit of being one of the major players in the victory of Parrikar led BJP in Goa.

Image Source: Travel Triangle

The Church has definitely tried to disentangle itself from the complex tangle of colonization. The process is not complete. The road ahead is challenging and difficult. Their hope of Goan Catholics as well as Many Goans is still tied to the steps the Church will take in the future. The annihilation of caste within the Church as well as in the society at large has to come from the principle ‘you cannot serve Christ and Caste at the same time’. The development of faith response to complex aspects of Goan life like tourism and colonization have to be ushered in based on the principles of incarnation and justice. Aspirations for a Catholics for university of the minorities and a catholic bank can be the future trajectory the Church has to undertake in order to respond to various voices that are brewing within and outside its boundaries. Listening to aspiration, hopes, pain, trauma of the people of Goa is and has to be the way of the Church. Above all the Church is challenged to be compassionate and become God’s welcome to everyone in Goa healing the pain of the colonial past and issues affecting the poor and the downtrodden in our society in Goa. This will indeed liberate the Church and render its liberating presence active in our society in Goa.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao