For the first time in living memory, there will be no congregations for the feast of revered saint Francis Xavier in Goa on account of the Covid-19 pandemic, Church authorities have announced.
The feast of the 16th century Spanish Jesuit who is revered as Goencho Saib (Lord of Goa) in Goa, where his sacred relics remain is celebrated annually on December 3, and draws thousands of devotees from across the state and beyond.
“While people from every nook and corner of Goa would traditionally converge at Old Goa for the Saibachem Novena and Fest, Covid-19 has reversed the tide this year and the liturgy will now be celebrated in every parish, chapel and institution in Goa, in India and all over the world,” Fr Patricio Fernandes the Rector of the Basilica of Bom Jesus where the feast is celebrated, has said.
Instead the Masses will be telecast live for those wishing to attend in a virtual mode.
Veneration of the relics will however be allowed and has already begun.
“Since it’s not possible to congregate because of MHA restrictions, veneration of the Relic will be allowed… The MHA guidelines also do not allow garlands, candles, water bottles, touching and kissing of statues, holy water fonts, etc.. Dress code will be implemented while entering the premises,” the church said in a statement.
Trial runs for the entry and facilitation of devotees have already been conducted.
Despite the Ministry of Home Affairs and the state government permitting the reopening of places of religious worship from July onwards, Churches in Goa have begun reopening only from October onwards with many yet to reopen owing to the risks associated with large gatherings that usually accompany religious ceremonies.
“We need to recognise in all these realities a God-given opportunity to reflect deeply on the way we relate with God, with fellow human beings and with nature,” Goa Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrão said.