01/04/2021, 17.05
INDIA
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Police don't heed complaint over Hindu ceremony held at Catholic church

by Nirmala Carvalho

A pooja, a major Hindu ceremony of devotional homage to a god, was held on the grounds of the Catholic Church in Sancoale, Goa. In his complaint, the parish priest cites the penal code, which bans deliberate and harmful acts meant to insult the religious feelings of a group.

 

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – A Pooja was celebrated on the grounds of a Catholic Church in Sancoale, Goa, where the frontispiece of the ancient church still exists. The religious ceremony is a devotional homage to a Hindu deity.

“In front of the frontispiece of the old church, a group of about 25 people began performing a Hindu pooja at 4 pm today. Behind it, there is a chapel where Sunday masses are celebrated,” the parish priest, Fr Luis Alvares, told AsiaNews.

“This is a heritage site and a religious place. I was present with my parishioners,” the clergyman explained. “We called the police, who asked them (the Hindu devotees) to move to another place for the pooja. We filed a complaint with the police.”

“This is the place and time of year when the novenas and the feast of St Joseph Vaz are celebrated. Currently, novenas are being held in preparation for the feast day of St Joseph Vaz. What is more, walking pilgrimages from Goa end here, at the old Church.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the faithful came from all over India and Sri Lanka to visit this church during the Novenas.”

“Today, feast of the Epiphany, we celebrated the prayer service at 6.30 pm, by candlelight, praying for peace,” Fr Luis Alvares told AsiaNews. “Almost 2,000 people were present (all with masks and socially distanced).”

“The Pooja was held last Wednesday, but police have not yet registered our complaint.”

Sancoale’s parish priest noted that at the “property Survey No. 266/2 of the village of Sancoale stands the frontispiece of the old church. The said property is lawfully and peacefully owned, possessed, and enjoyed by the 'Fabrica of Church of Sancoale’.”

“The frontispiece which is situated in the said property has been declared a ‘Protected Monument’ by the Directorate of Archives and Archaeology, Government of Goa, with ownership status as ‘Private’ belonging to the Church of Sancoale’.” 

The Archdiocese of Goa celebrates the annual novena and feast of St Joseph Vaz near the frontispiece. On the same property there is also the Chapel of Our Lady of Health where Catholic religious ceremonies such as holy Mass, litany and rosaries take place on a regular basis.

“Walking Pilgrimage or ‘Bhavartachi Yatra’ is an annual pilgrimage undertaken by thousands of faithful from all over Goa and beyond, during the Lenten period of the Catholic calendar, in front of the old church of Sancoale.”

In his letter of complaint, the parish priest called on the police to immediately become cognizance of the offence and to act immediately to register a First Information Report (FIR) and subsequently investigate under Chapter XII of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1973, in order to stop any further harm and violence against the Catholic community at large.

However, after four days, the police have not yet registered a FIR and have failed to give due consideration to the parish priest's letter of complaint.

For his part, South Goa Police Superintendent Pankaj Singh said they have yet to register a FIR because they are still investigating the matter.

In his complaint, Fr Luis Alvares cited the various offences that are cognisable, non-bailable and punishable under sections 153 (A and B), 295 (A), 440, 426, 447, 506 (ii), 505 (2 and 3), 509 r/w section 34 and/or 120 B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Sancoale’s parish priest also asked the Verna police to take immediate cognisance of the offences and register a FIR, besides taking steps to stop any further damage and communal violence under Article 153 (A) of the IPC on “Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence. language, etc.”

The offences include deliberate and malicious acts under Section 295 (A), intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.

Criminal intimidation, insult and annoyance as well as their punishments are defined under Sections 504, 505, 506, 507, 508, 509 and 510 of the IPC.

Photo credit: Mcvean Pereira

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