2010-11-09 15:28:57

St.Xavier shrine struggles to cope with crowds

(November 09,2010) In India, the historic Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, home to the relics of St. Xavier is struggling to cope with thousands of pilgrims as the saint’s Dec. 3 feast draws near. The Rector of the Basilica, Jesuit Fr. Savio Baretto said “We have no permanent infrastructure to host pilgrims; the poor either sleep in the open or in buses. Some find shelter in nearby convents but that is exerting stress on the nuns, he said.
Fr. Baretto pointed out that the Basilica, attracts some 50,000 pilgrims during the nine-day prayers in preparation for the saint’s feast. And on the feast day,Dec.3, more than 100,000 people flock to the church. Even on normal days it has some 5,000 visitors. The priest said the shrine’s troubles began after builders bought property around the complex. The state government’s lack of interest in providing basic amenities to the pilgrims has added to the shrine’s woes, he added. He noted that three years ago, the government drew up plans for a pilgrimage center and earmarked land for it near the basilica, but nothing has been heard about it since then. The government has also shelved plans to declare the shrine area as a heritage zone, the priest said. This would have stopped construction within 100 meters of the church, with only limited construction allowed within 300 meters, he added.

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