PANJIM/ VATICAN CITY: Five centuries since the official arrival of the Roman Catholic faith, Goa will finally get the honour of having its illustrious son of the soil, Blessed Joseph Vaz, declared the first Goan saint of the universal Catholic church.
This honour was accorded on Wednesday when Pope Francis approved the votes of the Ordinary Session of the Cardinal and Bishop Fathers in favour of the canonisation of Blessed Joseph Vaz.
A consistory will now be convoked shortly to formally declare the canonisation of Blessed Joseph Vaz and Pope Francis is likely to canonize Blessed Joseph Vaz during his visit to Sri Lanka in January.
The news of the pope’s approval of the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz was greeted with jubilation by the church in Goa, as soon as the Vatican Information Services (VIS) released a press note in this connection.
A VIS press release stated, “The pontiff approved the votes of the Ordinary Session of the Cardinal and Bishop Fathers in favour of the canonisation of Blessed Joseph Vaz, Indian priest of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, founder of the Oratory of the Holy Cross of Miracles in Goa (1651-1711).”
“The Holy Father decided that a consistory will be convoked shortly for the canonisation of Blessed Joseph Vaz,” the VIS added.
The AP news agency then reported that Pope Francis decided to “bend the Vatican’s rules once again to bypass the usual requirement that a second miracle be confirmed” in the case of Blessed Joseph Vaz, who will also be Sri Lanka’s first saint.
“Pope Francis had approved a decision by the Vatican’s saint-making office to canonize Vaz. Usually, the Vatican must approve one miracle for beatification, and a second one for canonization. The pope usually signs an official decree attesting to the miracles.”
“But Francis bent the rules in the case of Vaz, using the same process he applied to canonize St John XXIII without a second miracle attributed to his intercession,” reported the AP news agency.
Vaz was born in Benaulim in 1651 and was a priest of the Oratory of St Philip Neri, where he founded the Oratory of the Holy Cross of Miracles in Goa. He chose to work in Sri Lanka due to persecution of Catholics by Dutch colonial rulers, when Calvinism was the official religion. He has been credited for having revived the Catholic faith in the country.
Vaz travelled throughout the island bringing the eucharist and the sacraments to clandestine groups of Catholics. Later in his mission, he found shelter in the Kingdom of Kandy where he was able to work freely. By the time of his death, Vaz had managed to rebuild the Catholic church on the island.
A shrine dedicated to Blessed Joseph Vaz was set up in Sancoale, where lakhs of devotees have been faithfully converging to seek the intercession of Goa’s saintly son of the soil.
Following his beatification, Blessed Joseph Vaz was declared the patron of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman.
“Bl. Joseph Vaz ‘belongs’ to both Goa & Sri Lanka”
With Pope Francis officially approving the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz on Wednesday, will Blessed Joseph Vaz now be considered a saint “belonging” to Sri Lanka, the place where he worked and died, or Goa, the place of his birth and his priesthood?
This has been the issue being discussed in various circles, including the social media, following eager anticipation of the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz since the past few weeks.
A church official has clarified that though a person is declared a saint for the universal Catholic church, a peculiar situation has arisen where Blessed Joseph Vaz as a saint would “belong” equally to the diocese of Kandy (Sri Lanka) and to the archdiocese of Goa.
“This is a very peculiar situation. Unusually, saints “belong” to the diocese where they have died. Hence, Mother Teresa is known as St Tereza of Kolkata and not of Albania, her native country,” informed Fr Loiola Pereira, secretary to Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao.
“In the case of Blessed Joseph Vaz, the cause for the canonization has been known officially as the “Kandyan or Goan cause”. Therefore, Blessed Joseph Vaz ‘belongs’ equally to the diocese of Kandy (Sri Lanka) and to the archdiocese of Goa,” Fr Pereira added.
Herald first to convey news to ‘miracle child’ Fr Cosme
While the church in Goa and Sri Lanka was ecstatic on hearing the news that Pope Francis had approved the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz, it was a momentous occasion for a Pilar father. For, his miracle was and will be the only officially recognized miracle that has elevated Blessed Joseph Vaz to sainthood.
And Herald was the first to convey to Fr Cosme J Costa that Blessed Joseph Vaz would be officially declared a saint in the near future.
“Thank you, Herald, for being the first to communicate the news to me. It was the great faith of my mother that saved my life through the intercession and intervention of Fr Joseph Vaz, which led to his being on the altar,” was the first reaction of Fr Costa, a native of Aldona and presently serving at the Pilar Theological College.
“I have no words to express my joy and gratitude to God for having heard the prayers of countless Goans, Sri Lankans and devotees all over the world for the last three centuries for this great day, conferring full honours of the Altar on our great Goan missionary, Blessed Joseph Vaz. Canonization will entitle him to be honoured all over the world,” Fr Costa added.
Despite numerous miracles attributed to Blessed Joseph Vaz, only one miracle – the birth of Fr Costa – was officially recognized by the Vatican.
Narrating the details of the miracle association with his birth, Fr Costa said: “the process of a miracle worked by the intercession of Fr Joseph Vaz was submitted to Rome by Fr Urbino Monteiro, Vice-Postulator in Goa and the canonical enquiry was held in 1991 and submitted to the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, Rome, by the Postulator Fr James Fitz-Patrick.”
“It was studied by five eminent medical Surgeons from Rome and England. It concerned the difficult pregnancy of my mother, Quiteria de Noronha e Costa, due to “placenta previa.”
“On October 28, 1992, the Medical Council declared, “Sudden and perfect cessation of the hemorrhages followed by the delivery by leg of a premature child that survived: this event cannot be explained in our science.”
“On February 19, 1993, the Congress of Theologians was held and on May 4, the session of cardinals and bishops and this fact was declared to be extraordinary. And so on July 6, 1993, Pope John Paul II declared this to be a real miracle. The beatification ceremony was held at Colombo, Sri Lanka, on January 21, 1995,” said Fr Costa.
Goa Archdiocese rejoices
The Archdiocese of Goa and Daman has rejoiced with the news that Pope Francis has approved the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz, apostle of Canara and Sri Lanka and patron of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman.
“The Holy Father has thus put a definitive seal to the process of his canonization, which, as we are aware, had reached its final stages,” said Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao.
“As we await the final declaration of the Consistory of Cardinals, yet to be convoked by the pope, we thank God for this great blessing that the people of Goa, along with the entire church in India and particularly in Sri Lanka, were longing to receive and were intensely praying for in recent times.”
“This great gift of God challenges us to live out our Christian faith more authentically and to witness to it more joyfully in our personal, family, community and social life, after the example of this great saint, who dedicated his life, especially in Canara and in Sri Lanka, to the sharing of this faith, sometimes under very trying circumstances,” Archbishop Ferrao added.
Newly ordained Goan Bishop of Ranchi Theodore Mascarenhas has also expressed jubilation over the news that the pope had approved the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz.
“For me as a Goan, it is news that brings great joy. It is really a recognition of the faith of the Goan people and in a certain sense, a reward for the missionary work undertaken by Goan missionaries all over the world.”
“May it help us to increase our faith and our missionary zeal and as a member of Society of Pilar, I hope and pray that soon Venerable Fr Angelo D’Souza may also be raised to the honours of the altar,” said Bishop Mascarenhas.