Goa’s ‘Society of Pilar’ raised to “Pontifical status”
by Nirmala Carvalho
Benedict XVI signed the decree that places Goa’s Society of the Missionaries of St. Francis Xavier under direct Holy See control. A solemn celebration will be held in the Pilar Seminary Chapel to mark the event. Pilar missionaries are involved in missionary work in some of the most difficult situations.

Goa (AsiaNews) – Pope Benedict XVI has given his approval to the Goa-based Society of Missionaries of St Francis Xavier, Pilar (Society of Pilar) as a Society of Apostolic Life for mission Ad Gentes of pontifical right. To mark the event, His Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay will preside over the solemn Eucharistic celebration at 4 pm, on 4 December, in the Pilar Seminary Chapel, in Goa.

Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, Card Telesphore Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi, Archbishop-Patriarch Filipe Neri Ferrao and Archbishop Emeritus Raul Gonsalves, of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman will concelebrate the Mass.

The official decree of approval for the Society of Pilar as a Society of Apostolic Life for mission Ad Gentes of pontifical right will be read during the celebration.

Canon 593 of the Code of Canon Law explains the meaning of pontifical right. It says, ““institutes of pontifical right are immediately and exclusively subject to the power of the Apostolic See with regard to internal governance and discipline”.

Fr Theodore Mascarenhas, a Pilar Father in charge of the Departments of Asia, Africa and Oceania at the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, in an exclusive interview to AsiaNews stated that “the Society now has to gear up to its new role and new status.”

“The missionary charisma is to be further strengthened and new ways should be found to exercise it. The constitutions have to be amended to incorporate the changes ordered by the Congregation for the Evangelization for Peoples.”

“These changes will affect governance and reflect the new powers, rights and responsibilities of the major superiors in the society and about the relationship of the Society to the Holy See and to other bishops,” Fr Mascarenhas said.

“Cardinal Ivan Dias, when I met him shortly after the approval, described this moment beautifully.” He said, “You are now a grown up daughter, a spouse that I have given in marriage to the Universal Church”.

Fr Mascarenhas told AsiaNews that the “Society was born in the Archdiocese of Goa in 1887, founded by a priest of the Archdiocese, hence [granting] this pontifical right to our Society is a tribute to the people of Goa and the Archdiocese”.

“The people of Goa have always felt the society to be their own. They have supported it with financial means but above all by encouraging their sons to join the Society. We hope that with the additional responsibility of the Society, with its new status, many more gifted sons of Goa will enter its ranks to go far to proclaim the Gospel. The society ventured into difficult areas, far-flung god-forsaken islands in the jungles of Nagar Haveli, in the hinterlands of Sanguem, in the heat and cold of Punjab-Haryana.”

As for new vocations, Fr Mascarenhas said, “Through the Society of Pilar, the sons of Goa, following in the footsteps of the great Apostle of Sri Lanka, the Blessed Joseph Vaz, have been carrying out the mission of evangelization. Thus every vocation from Goa to the Society is a tribute to the missionary spirit of the Goan people”.

Raising the Society to the status of pontifical right can help it in its mission, he said, because it “increases the responsibility of the Society and its members towards its Charism. The particular spirituality of the Society of the Missionaries of St. Francis Xavier follows from its purpose of making Jesus Christ present among those who do not yet know Him and among Christians who have become indifferent to Him”.

“Pilar missionaries are called to blend with the culture of the milieu on the model of their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. To preach the Gospel more effectively, Pilar missionaries are to fully integrate themselves in the culture of the place and live in communion with the people to whom they are sent and be part of their social and cultural world. This calls for detachment from many features of one's own culture.”

“The Gospel way of life is to inspire our missionaries” so that they can “make innovative cultural proposals while, at the same time, remain cautious about the risks of syncretism and relativism.”

“It is most significant to note the concluding words of the Decree,” which read, “May the Society of the Missionaries of St. Francis Xavier (Society of Pilar) be always guided by the same missionary zeal that took St. Francis Xavier to distant lands, moved solely by the love to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ . . . .”