All fine in Goa, says archbishop; ducks posers on ‘ghar wapsi’

Panaji, Dec 29 (IANS) Goa archbishop Fr. Filipe Neri Ferrao Monday ducked questions about comments made by an RSS functionary on the possibility of ‘ghar wapsi’ of Goa Catholics, but said minorities in other parts of India were concerned about emerging signs of communal discord.

Ferrao was speaking at the annual function organised at the Bishop’s Palace in Panaji, which was attended by many top political, bureaucratic and social dignitaries.
The archbishop later refused to take questions on the Goa aspect of the ‘ghar wapsi’ (home-coming) controversy.
“Whatever I had to say, I have said. This is not a press conference,” Ferrao said.
After conducting a training session for young volunteers, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) office-bearer Sharad Kunte said the organisation was willing to welcome Catholics whose ancestors were converted during the Portuguese colonial rule generations back.
“If they want to come back, we are ready to welcome them… It’s like this, the Portuguese had forcibly converted thousands of Hindus. They (those converted) are not around now, but I think their later generations are,” said Kunte, who heads the RSS intellectual wing for the western region.
The comments triggered agitated reactions from Goa’s minority community as well as from the opposition parties.
Earlier in his address, Ferrao gave a clean chit to the Goa government for maintaining a harmonious church-state relationship, but also expressed regret that the same was not the case as far as the rest of India was concerned.
“We are, however, anguished to see that the picture of the church and state relationship that we have drawn here is quite different from what obtains in many other parts of our country,” he said.
“In recent times, however, we are observing certain signs which are causing grave concern, particularly to the minorities, and which threaten to break down the fibre of our nation. One of the worst internal enemies of a nation is communal discord. It can disintegrate a nation,” he added.
Calling communalism a “hydra” (a many-headed serpent in Greek mythology), Ferrao hoped that “our political leaders, both at the state and the national level, commit themselves to create an environment where everyone is respected and protected, irrespective of social, cultural or religious affiliations or differences”.
Twenty-six percent of the state’s 1.5 million population is Catholic. Goa was a Portuguese colony for more than 450 years until it was liberated from Portuguese rule in 1961 by the Indian Army.
In the earlier part of the Portuguese regime, a large number of Goans were converted by Catholic missionaries, often by force, according to documented historical texts.