Mulling direct flights to Sri Lanka: Goa CM

Panaji : The Goa government is considering introduction of direct flights to and from Sri Lanka to facilitate travel for pilgrims from the island nation to the Exposition of Spanish saint Francis Xavier, a 40-day decennial event beginning Nov 22.

A Catholic Church official from Goa, also said that direct flights between Sri Lanka and Goa would help tap an increasing synergy between believers in St. Francis Xavier and recently cannonised Sri Lankan St. Joseph Vaz, who was of Goan origin.

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“We are considering (the proposal). A request has come, which in-principle I have accepted. I cannot guarantee because it is not in my hands. We are trying to work out flights from Sri Lanka,” Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar told reporters, adding that a request would be made to the central government for this.

Every ten years, remains of the missionary saint, also called the ‘Patron Saint of Goa’, are kept on public display at an event called the Exposition of St. Francis Xavier at the Old Goa Church complex located 10 kms from here.

Earlier, the body was on permanent display. However, after noticing deterioration of the corpse, which was for nearly two centuries incorruptible, church authorities decided to allow devotees view it only once every 10 years during Exposition.

Over five million devotees are expected to attend the event.

This year more people from Sri Lanka are expected, Parrikar said

Fr. Alfred Vaz, a Goan Roman Catholic, chief organizer of the event, said that 2,000 to 3,000 Sri Lankans visit the remains of St. Francis Xavier in Goa, who also has a following in the island nation.

“A lot of Goans also go to Lanka too because of Saint Vaz and the legacy of work he has left there,” Vaz told IANS.

Vaz was a 17th century priest who left Goa to spread Christianity in Sri Lanka subsequently. The process to formally cannonise him as a Catholic saint is almost complete.