Goa churches to preserve historical artefacts

Slowly but surely, Goa is waking up to its rich Portuguese cultural heritage.

After years of lying in various Churches across Goa, Portuguese era artefacts will now be given a new lease of life by Archdiocese of Goa, which is even thinking of creating ‘museums in each of the churches’. Goa’s Catholic Church has decided that the Christian heritage artefacts need to be preserved by forming special heritage cells, that would be manned by experts.

Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao recently told a gathering near Panaji that every parish (village level community) must take care of the age-old articles lying in the churches. This heritage needs to be “protected, preserved and conserved” in the form of museum, he said. “If needed it should be restored so that it can be passed on to the next generation,” Ferrao said.

The Archbishop of Goa has said that the “absence of (heritage) professionals could be disastrous for the protection and restoration of these artefacts.” “The church is not primarily a custodian of art and architecture. The mission of the church is fundamentally spiritual. A mighty outpouring of human artistic creativity entire to the glory and worship of God has resulted in the Church becoming, defacto, the custodian of immense treasure of culture and artistic heritage,” he added.

After decades of trying to underplay its Portuguese roots, the Catholic Church in Goa seems to be finally waking up and acknowledging its history and heritage.

Not only should these Portuguese era artefacts be used to make the Goan Catholics proud of their heritage, they should also be used to start an intercultural and interfaith dialogue with other cultures and religions based on mutual respect and admiration. By better understanding their own and other cultures, Goa’s multicultural population will be better equipped to live in peace and harmony with one another.

Ethical tourism important in Goa: Catholic Church

The tourism industry has received some advice from a most unlikely quarter – Goa’s Catholic Church!

With over 25 percent of the state’s population being Roman Catholic, the Catholic Church has a significant sway in Goa, which also attracts over 2.6 million tourists annually. But until now, it has remained silent on important economical issues such as tourism.

The Catholic Church claimed that it was only the rich and the powerful that were hiving off profits earned by Goa’s multi-million dollar tourism industry, leaving virtually nothing for the local inhabitants of the state. Speaking at an annual reception in the Bishop’s House, Archbishop of Goa Reverend Filipe Neri Ferrao said the State Government and the Goa Tourism Department needed to pursue “ethical and holistic” tourism initiatives.

“Our people seem to be systematically dispossessed by the powerful and the rich, who see their own profits as being of higher value than the people of the land,” Ferrao said.”Our anxiety stems from the fact that too few of benefits seem to percolate down to the genuine holders of rights over tourism, that is, the original inhabitants of our coastal areas where the bulk of tourism happens.”

Although falling short of suggesting “concrete technical guidelines” to make tourism sustainable, Ferrao said the tourism industry should not only consider economic, but also ethical issues.

Focusing on the common man, Ferrao said that the common man should be allowed to run “small businesses along the coast in order to compensate for their displacement”. At the moment, it is extremely difficult for a local person with no influence to start his own business. But if Goa’s tourism is to become sustainable in the long run, it must change this.

Truly sustainable tourism is tourism that benefits not only the guest but also a large portion of local society. Instead, it is only the large multinational hotel corporations such as Marriott, Taj and Leela that are making huge profits, with little of the economic boom trickling down to the local population. Few big hotels employ locals, preferring to bring in staff from bigger cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. In addition, foreign based hotel chains repatriate all their profits back to their home countries, leaving little money in the state.

It is only when the economic benefits of tourism benefit all, especially the small businessman, that tourism will be seen in a positive light. And this call by the Catholic Church is but the first step.