Old Goa Church complex needs to be preserved better: Goa Portuguese consul

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Panaji: The Portuguese consulate in Goa is in the process of cobbling together a network of government and civilian agencies to spruce up and preserve the iconic Old Goa Church complex that is currently plagued by poor garbage management and ringed by unkempt shanties selling souvenirs to tourists.

Speaking to IANS on the sidelines of a book release event here on Tuesday, Portuguese Consul General in Goa Rui Carvalho Baceira said that there was a need for Portuguese language professionals in the state in order to meet with the demand for translators and speakers of the Lusophonian language.

“One of my goals while I am consul is to organise a big seminar to talk about Old Goa. To engage historians from Portugal and India involve governmental, private (agencies) to think what can be done together to save Old Goa in terms of the perimeter. What can one do to save it from these horrible shacks everywhere,” Baceira said.

Formerly built as a formidable city by the Bijapur sultanate, before the advent of the Portuguese who conquered the area, the Old Goa church complex, located nearly 10 km from Panaji, houses the sacred remains of Portuguese adventurer saint St Francis Xavier.

Old Goa also served as the Portuguese capital until the 18th century, when a plague forced the authorities to relocate the capital to Panaji. Portuguese colonisation of India ended after 451 years in 1961, after the Indian Army liberated Goa.

The three main churches in the complex namely the Se Cathedral, Church of St Francis of Assisi and the Basilico of Bom Jesus are major places of worship. The Unesco recognized heritage site is also a popular tourist attraction.

However, in more recent times, plans of the state government to start a garbage management plan in the vicinity of the Church complex triggerred alarm in Goa’s Roman Catholic Church’s top echelons, with the top officials openly protesting the setting up of the proposed garbage plant.

Baceira claims that concerns were expressed to him, about the need for comprehensive preservation of the Old Goa complex and the seminar would aim to preserve the heritage church complex and its surroundings better.

The consul general also said that while the colonial history between Goa and Portuguese, which had its shades of positives and negatives, could not be rewritten, but there was need for India and Portugal to work together as “young” and progressive democracies of the world.

He also lamented the fact that there were few Portuguese language teachers in educational institutions in Goa, but also added that the emergence of Portuguese as one of the more important languages globally, could slowly alter the situation for the better.

“We get requests for translators or Portuguese language teachers, but we do not have so many,” Baceira said.

“…they (students) realise how important Portuguese is now. So Portuguese is now the fourth most important language of the world and it is a language that can be a very important asset for students searching for jobs,” he said.

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