Goa ruling party questions Church over priest’s death

Goa Forward, a member of the ruling alliance, on Friday accused Goa’s Roman Catholic Church of being selective in criticism of the BJP-led government and accused it of adding to the aggravating social tension in the state.

Goa Forward spokesperson Trajano D’Mello also questioned the silence of the Church’s social arm, the Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP), on the controversial death of former priest Bismarque Dias in 2015, which the latter’s supporters have linked to the real estate mafia.

D’Mello said: “This CSJP is so much disturbed by religious structures being destroyed… There is a hue and cry about the death of Fr. Bismarque. Why has this organisation remained silent on that? Sensitivity is more to a structure than to a human?”

The Bombay High Court bench in Panaji some weeks back ordered the police to re-investigate the mysterious death of Dias, who was found drowned in a natural water-body near Panaji in 2015.

The re-investigation followed a video clip that showed Dias talking to the camera, naming possible suspects, most of them involved in real-estate trade, in the event of his death.

Dias, even during his tenure as a Catholic priest, had been actively protesting rampant, illegal real estate development in and around his native village of Juvem, near Panaji.

“Why is this organisation adding fuel to fire when there is no fire and creating an alarming situation? It will have a negative impact on the Catholic community,” D’Mello said.

The influential Catholic church in Goa is at loggerheads with the BJP-led ruling coalition over the series of desecrations in the state over the past few months.

A fact-finding report co-authored by the Council has blamed the state government for not acting tough against hate-speeches by Hindu right-wing leaders in the state and has termed as a sham the police investigation into the desecrations of religious icons, including Catholic crosses, graves and some Hindu places of worship. The report was released on the eve of the August 23 assembly bypoll.

An official magazine published by the Goa Church just before the polls likened the contemporary Goa and India to the Nazi-led Germany, and implored voters not to cast ballot in favour of BJP’s candidate and Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who eventually won the assembly by-election with a comfortable margin.

The BJP on Wednesday said that the fact-finding report was mischievous and baseless, and also asked Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao to tone down the contents of the magazine.

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