The influential Roman Catholic Church in Goa on Saturday cautioned against "increasing intolerance" in the coastal state, while also disapproving efforts of a section of civilian Catholic leaders to obstruct allocation of land for a burial ground for Goa's Muslim community.
"It has been observed that when there are attempts to purchase land or even find a site for a kabrastan, there are often objections from some sections of the Catholic community, who are opposed to a Muslim cemetery in their village," says a statement issued by Fr. Olavo Caiado, Director of the Diocesan Centre for Social Communications Media, Archdiocese of Goa and Daman.
The statement issued on behalf of the Goa Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao, has also said that disposal of dead bodies is a basic right of every religious community, including Muslims, and appealed to Catholics to peacefully facilitate the setting up of a Muslim burial ground.
"Sadly, in the present times, we see increasing intolerance and even open conflicts drifting us apart. We must reclaim our traditional social relations and once more be the peace-loving sisters and brothers that we always were. Hence our earnest appeal for communal understanding and peace among the different communities in Goa," the statement said.
The issue of providing for a burial ground for the Muslim community in South Goa has been hanging fire during the respective reigns of the BJP as well as Congress-led governments, with both dispensations cautious so as to not antagonise the numerically superior Catholic minority, which accounts for nearly 26 per cent of the state population. Muslims account for nearly seven per cent of the population.
Some weeks back, lay Catholic leaders who oppose the government's plans for a burial ground at Sonsoddo, 40 km from Panaji, heckled and shouted down two Catholic priests who had arrived at a public meet to discuss the contentious issue. The video of the laity heckling priests also went viral on social media.
The statement issued by the Centre on behalf of the Archbishop, now alleges that the lay Catholic leaders had tried to incite the crowd against the two priests, Fr. Maverick Fernandes and Fr. Freddy Braganza.
"His (Fr. Fernandes) words, spoken with pastoral care and patience, were roundly dismissed with shouting and foul language by the leaders. The leaders also tried to incite the crowd and join them in their reprehensible behaviour," the statement said.
"It (burial with dignity) is the last rite conducted on a person who has passed from this life into eternity. This obliges the Catholic faithful to be respectful of similar duties performed by people of other faiths and therefore not to interfere with their legitimate endeavours in this direction," the statement also adds.
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