Panaji, Nov 17 (IANS) Prayer services at Goa’s biggest religious event — a feast dedicated to 16th century Spanish saint Francis Xavier — will be mostly held virtually this year due to Covid-19 pandemic, state church authorities said on Tuesday.
Goa’s Roman Catholic church has preferred to not host large congregations in the run-up to the feast on December 3 in view of the pandemic.
Regarded as the patron saint of Goa and colloquially referred to as ‘Goencho Saib’, St Francis Xavier, who hailed from Navarre, was one of the earliest missionaries to bring Christianity to this part of the world.
His remains, housed in the Bom Jesus Basilica in the heritage church complex near Panaji, are referred to as ‘relics’ and are on public display for veneration every year on December 3, which is the highlight of the feast, especially for Roman Catholics, who account for 26 per cent of Goa’s population.
“Since it’s not possible to congregate because of MHA restrictions, restricted veneration of the relics will be allowed. The MHA guidelines do not allow garlands, candles, water bottles, touching and kissing of statues, holy water fonts etc. A dress code will be implemented for entry to the premises,” the Roman Catholic Church in Goa said in a statement.
“The Masses will be telecast live for those wishing to attend in a virtual mode,” the Church tatement also said.
The period for veneration of the relics has also been extended from mid-November to December 3 in order to prevent overcrowding.
This year, prayer services — that otherwise attracted thousands of devotees every day in the run up to the feast at the heritage church’s grounds — will be celebrated in local churches, chapels and other public places to prevent overcrowding.