‘BJP will be proud to host pope in Goa’

Panaji, April 5 (IANS) The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Goa Friday said it would be “proud” to host Pope Francis I if he decided to visit the 2014 exposition of Spanish Jesuit St. Francis Xavier.

“Of course, we want the pope to come (to Goa). We will be proud to have him here,” BJP vice president Wilfred Mesquita said.

He added that the BJP would actively lobby along with the Church in Goa to invite the pope, the first Jesuit pontiff and leader of the 1.2 billion Catholics, for the once-in-a-decade exposition.

“The invitation has to be formally extended by the Goa Archdiocese. We will be lobbying with them to make sure they will invite Pope Francis,” Mesquita said.

St Francis Xavier, a Jesuit priest who hailed from Navarra in the Basque region of Spain, heralded Christianity in Goa in the early 1500s and was incidentally also responsible initiating the process for the brutal inquisition in Goa, which saw tenets of the Christian religion imposed by force and violence on Goan subjects.

After his death in 1552 in Shangchuan, China, his body was first ferried to Malacca, a city now in Malaysia, and later stored in 1553 in the grand Basilica of Bom Jesus, one of the oldest churches in Goa.

Believers regard it as a miracle that the body has survived for nearly 500 years, while sceptics have historically argued that the mortal remains of the saint have been embalmed to ensure its survival.

Every year, more than a million believers throng the Church complex in Old Goa, located a short distance from here.

Once in a decade, the Church arranges for the devotees to see the saint’s remains in a glass-topped silver casket. The event, which is known as the exposition, is due in November 2014.

The Church has already said that it would invite the pope to Goa in 2014.

Catholics account for nearly 25 per cent of the state’s population of 1.4 million.

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