Even with a turnout more than double since the last exposition, the 43-day solemn event, turned out to be a success
After months of planning, the 43-day solemn exposition of the body of St. Francis Xavier, finally came to an end on 4th January, in Goa. The relics were carried back from the Se Cathedral to the Basilica of Bom Jesus–the resting place of the Saint.
During the 17th exposition, masses were held in several Indian and foreign languages including English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Konkani, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Spanish, Italian, French and Portuguese.Daily masses were held every morning and evening for all 43 days, in English and Konkani, at The Basilica of Bom Jesu. Apostolic Nuncio to India and Nepal, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio led the concluding Mass on Sunday assisted by Archbishops Philip Neri Ferrao of Goa and Stanislaus Fernandes of Gandhinagar as well as Bishops Lumen Monteiro of Agartala, Anthony Alwyn Fernandes Barreto of Sindhudurg and Oswald Lewis of Jaipur.
With more than a lakh pilgrims visiting the relics daily, the timings for veneration were extended by a few hours during the last four days to meet the rush and long queues. While the last exposition saw a turnout of 24 lakh tourists, this year the turnout has been more than double, with 50 lakh pilgrims visiting. “The gates were officially supposed to open at 7 am, but when we joined the line at 6 30 am, the line was already moving and we finished our visit within an hour. But when we passed by later in the afternoon, the queue outside the cathedral gates was four rows wide as the two main lines extended all the way to the road that leads down to the ferry and doubled back,” says Collin D'Sa. Another pilgrim thought that things were quite well thought out as the old and disabled were taken directly in a wheelchair to the head of the line. Once they were in the cathedral, they could walk the last few steps, if they wished and were wheeled out again, all within 10 minutes. But “it would have been nice if there were more emergency exits, especially at the centre and if they had a few stalls selling sealed bottles of water,” comments Sheldon Pinto.
Fr Alfred Vaz, convener of the Exposition Committee said that there were more than 600 volunteers, mostly students and youngsters. “They made a lot of sacrifices to be at the service of the pilgrims, which contributed toward the success of the exposition,” he shares.