The government was in the process of forming guidelines for foreign study tours and no tour would be allowed until the guidelines are completed

Panaji : The Goa government has put on hold an all-expenses-paid junket to Europe organised by the state tourism ministry to promote the Exposition of Spanish saint Francis Xavier, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Wednesday.

Parrikar said at a press conference here that the state government was in the process of forming guidelines for foreign “study” tours and that no tour would be allowed until the guidelines are completed.

“If the guidelines are completed before the tour dates, then maybe the tour can be allowed, but until then no foreign trip will be sanctioned by the state government,” he said,  reports IANS.

The chief secretary has been asked to draw up guidelines for foreign tours for elected representatives and bureaucrats from Goa.

The move comes after the Goa government was heavily criticised in the national media and by the opposition as well as civil society for its decision to allow six ruling BJP legislators, including three cabinet ministers, on a junket to the football World Cup in Brazil to study “traffic management”.

The junket was formally cancelled following an outcry in the national media, reports IANS.

Notwithstanding the Brazil fiasco, the Goa tourism ministry was all set to splurge Rs.4 crore on travel across Europe where road shows were to be organised to promote the Exposition of St. Francis Xavier, a Spanish saint whose remains are preserved in a Goa church.  The aim of the junket was to attract tourists from Europe for the event.

Archbishop Fr. Filipe Neri Ferrao, the spiritual leader of several lakh Catholics in Goa, meanwhile, refused to take media queries on the issue of splurging crores of rupees on the European junket. Parrikar said the Europe trip could now happen only if the guidelines allow it or if the central government is willing to fund the Rs.4 crore expenditure.

Every 10 years, the 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 km from Panaji.

Earlier, the body was on permanent display. However, after church authorities noticed deterioration of the corpse which was for nearly two centuries miraculously incorruptible, they decided to have it viewed only once every 10 years. Catholics account for nearly 30 per cent of the state’s population of 1.4 million. The saint was responsible for bringing Christianity in a big way to the Indian subcontinent, as well as for bringing the Spanish Inquisition to Goa, which saw tenets of the Christian religion imposed by force and violence on Goan subjects.  After his death in 1552 in Shanchuan, China, his body was first ferried to Malacca and later stored in 1553 and in 1637 placed in the newly-built Basilica of Bom Jesus, built by the Jesuits.The exposition is held every year Dec 3, with nearly a million believers paying a visit, some even walking hundreds of kilometres to the church complex.

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