For those expecting crowds like those mobilized by the Goa Bachao Abhiyan at the rally called for by Goemchea Rakhondarancho Awaz at Panjim on Tuesday, the turn out was disappointing and the reason for it was very simple – the Church did not officially back GRA as it had done to the GBA.
GRA was in negotiations with the officials of the Goa Archdiocese for nearly a month seeking to garner its support at least to mobilize the crowd for the rally. However, the church refused to play ball with GRA.
Probably in a bid not to repeat the mistake of not offering an alternative that the GBA is accused of, GRA from the beginning had made it very clear that it would participate in the next assembly elections. In fact, GRA was very firm about fielding its own candidates and has even started the process of identifying worthy candidates in different constituencies.
This agenda of participating in the elections did not cut ice with the church officials. Fr. Maverick Fernandes heading the Council for Social Justice and Peace admitted that while the church was in agreement with all the issues raised by GRA, it could not support the political aspirations of the organization.
“The church while being alive to the issues facing the people, has always kept away from electoral politics and that is the reason why we could not officially support this rally,” he said while implying that the GBA “apolitical” stance was acceptable to the church.
The various priests present for the rally and even those on the dais were in their personal capacity, clarified Fr. Maverick. Seated on the dais were Fr. Eremito Rebello who has been associated with various social causes in Goa, Fr. Bismark who is very active in the anti-mining movement and Fr. Domnick Sequeira attached to the Saligao church.
Former assistant to the Bishop and presently parish priest of Calangute Church, Fr. Carmo Martins revealed that many priests did promote the rally and even announced about it at the Church. However, this was done in their individual capacity as there was no official directive from the Bishop’s House over this matter.
And while Fr. Maverick asserted that the “political agenda” of GRA compelled the church to keep a distance from it, he remained mum over the issues of many diocesan priests not only having but actively participating in the electoral process.