St Francis Xavier relics survive fire in Goa basilica
Just a month before a planned exposition of the remains of St Francis Xavier, fire erupted in the annexe of the Basilica of Bom Jesus in the Western Indian province of Goa, partially gutting two floors.
The fire, which flared in the early hours of Thursday morning, is believed to be accidental.
"The relics are safe. What is destroyed is the entire retreat room and dormitory rooms, besides an office," said Fr Alfred Vaz, director of the Catechetical Centre in Old Goa, 1910 kilometers southwest of New Delhi.
The 16th solemn exposition of the relics, ensconced in a silver casket, is scheduled to take place at the basilica for six weeks from 21 November.
Anxious crowds gathered at the site in the morning and watched firemen douse smoking beams, with water sprouting through the tiled roof. One of the main beams of the annexe was gone and others appeared precarious.
Fr Francisco Caldeira, director of the nearby Pastoral Institute, suspected an electrical short-circuit, but hastened to add that investigations were not completed.
"The blaze is a setback for the exposition," Fr Vaz said, but stressed that the event, which takes place every ten years, "will go ahead as scheduled." He added that people associated with the Church are quite relieved to know the relics are safe.
Fire in Bom Jesus Basilica complex spares St Francis Xavier relics (Catholic Bishops Conference of India/UCA News 21/10/04)
Churches of Old Goa (goacentral.com)
St Francis Xavier - his life and times (goa-world.net)
Feast of St Francis Xavier
St Francis Xavier (sjweb)
25 Oct 2004