Church uneasy as rebel priest takes poll plunge

Church uneasy as rebel priest takes poll plunge

An activist priest’s decision to contest the March 3 Assembly election has put the Goa Catholic Church in an embarassing situation. Backed by Zagrut Goenkarancho Ekvott (ZGE), a forum of socio-political organisations, Fr Bismarque Dias, 47, said he’s taking the electoral plunge as an independent in the Cumbarjua constituency.

His announcement, which has come as a huge surprise to church authorities, is also in conflict with church law. “Canon law does not allow a priest to contest an election,” Dias told Deccan Herald.  He said he was waiting for the church’s official reaction.

The Goa Archdiocese seemed to be hoping that Dias’ religious order, Blessed Sacrament Fathers, would deal with the situation.  But a senior priest pointed out that there was little the church could do if Dias went ahead regardless. A graduate of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, Dias was ordained into the priesthood in 1996 and has served mostly in Goa.

In recent months his activism and public criticism of the church’s decision to sell off an island that belonged to the Archdiocese to real estate developers has been met with official censure. He has been stopped saying Mass and conducting other religious duties.

Dias said he saw no difference between serving the church and serving the people, and his decision to plunge into politics was a response to the crisis situation in Goa.

“Mining has finished Goa on one side; the Regional Plan on the other,” he said, hinting that he might “walk away from priesthood into the real priesthood” of environmental, social and political issues.

The ZGE has announced four candidates and said more would be fielded as an alternative to the entrenched politicians who have corrupted the system in Goa.

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