Guided tours banned from Goa cathedral
Goa (AsiaNews) Administrators for the 15th century Bom Jesus Basilica have banned guided tours within the cathedral. The church houses the sacred relics of St Francis Xavier, patron saint of Goa, who died while on a sea voyage to China on December 2, 1552.
"This is something I have contemplated for a long time," said Father Savio Barreto, rector of the Basilica. "The guides shout. The faithful have approached me complaining the church was like a bazaar. Many have asked me: 'Is this the house of God?'"
On many occasions he has had to intervene when heated discussions broke out between guides and worshippers wanting silence to pray in the Basilica. "These restrictions in the churches of old Goa were long overdue," he said.
However, the guides, who earn between 50 to 100 rupees per group, have not been put out of business. "They can do their work at the entrance to the basilica, but inside we expect them to maintain the sanctity of the church," said Father Barreto.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) agreed to the decision and the ban is now in place.
"This is the initiative of the basilica administrators," Fr Loila Pereira, spokesman for the Archbishop of Goa and Daman, told AsiaNews, and "it has been well accepted by the people".
"Since guides speak various dialects of local Indian languages, we could not monitor what they said nor know how good their historical and religious knowledge was," the spokesman noted.
"The archdiocese prepared a one and a half hour video called the 'Pilgrimage of the Heart' featuring the life of Christ, St. Francis Xavier as well as Bishop Joseph Vaz, Goa's patron. It runs every day throughout the day in the parochial house and is well appreciated by visitors, Indians or foreigners alike."
"The decision to exclude the guides was important," concludes Fr Pereira, "because this year we are celebrating the 500th year since the birth of the Saint, known as the 'Apostle of Asia'. It was essential to restore the sanctity of the places dearest to him and that an atmosphere of reverence prevail in the House of God."