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Feast in honour of first Indian saint, devotees head to Vasai Fort

Jan. 6, 2014

Vasai fort came alive on Sunday as the Gonsalo Garcia church hosted a feast in honour of its patron saint. Thousands of devotees were expected to throng the fort, which is the birthplace of Saint Gonsalo Garcia, India’s first saint, to celebrate the 152nd year of his canonisation.

The saint was born as Gonçalo Garcia in 1557. Documents in the Lisbon Archives (ANTT) describe Gonsalo Garcia as a ‘natural de Agaçaim’ or ‘resident of Agashi’ village in Bassein, which is now known as Vasai. His father was a Portuguese soldier and his mother a Canarim, which is what the Portuguese called the inhabitants of the Konkan.

The festival of St Gonsalo is always held on the first Sunday nearest to the neap tide following Christmas. “He was born and brought up in Vasai and later moved to Japan with other missionaries. Prayer meetings were held inside the old church, which was decorated for the event by the youth from Koliwada. Also, every church in Vasai saw thousands of devotees who had come to pray and seek the blessings of the saint.

Garcia was trained by Jesuit priests at the college near the Vasai Fort. After moving to Japan and staying there for a few years, he moved to Manila in Philippines as a lay missionary. He soon moved back to Japan. But the Japanese rulers suspected the missionaries of sedition. In January 1597, they were arrested and imprisoned and in February, Gonsalo and 26 others were crucified in Nagasaki.

In 1627, Garcia and his fellow martyrs were declared “venerable” by Pope Urban VIII. It took the Catholic Church over 250 years to declare him a saint on June 8, 1862.

This year was special as the beloved patron saint completed 152 years of sainthood.

He spent his whole life spreading the message of peace and Jesus Christ,” said Fr D’Britto.

Source: DNA newspaper

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