Anjadiva Island - A glimmer of hope for Catholic devotees

Florine Roche

Karwar, Nov 11: Anjadiva Island (also known as Anjadip Island) in the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Karwar, is known for the two historical churches built by the Portuguese, is once again in the news for reasons both right and wrong. On one hand, intensive efforts by Natividade D’Sa, a resident of Goa who had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to resolve the long pending issue of holding mass at the two shrines, the Lady of Springs Church and St Francis de Asisi chapel. These two shrines were built in Anjadiva Island by the Portuguese soon after setting their foot on Goa in the beginning of the 15th century. But on the other hand, D’Sa also wrote a letter to the Portuguese Prime Minister seeking his intervention to resolve India’s internal issue. This brazen act of trying to invite a foreign country to meddle in a purely internal issue, despite positive response from the PMO, has come in for severe criticism.

Anjadiva Island, located in the Arabian Sea with an area of 1.5 sq km was under the Portuguese administration when they landed in Goa in the 15th Century. Two shrines, one church and a chapel were built in Anjadiva by the Portuguese. The church constructed in 1505 is considered to be the first church on the Indian subcontinent. After the liberation of Goa in 1961 Anjadiva Island came under the Control of the state of Goa.

Every year the feasts of the two patrons were held on February 2 and October 4 and Catholic devotees in large numbers used to undertake a pilgrimage to the island by boat. When the Indian Navy built its naval base in Karwar, the island was handed over to the Navy by the Goan Government. Unfortunately, from 2004 onwards Indian Navy barred entry to the general public, including Catholic devotees to the churches owing to security reasons. The said Island falls under the category of ‘Restricted area’.

It is said that the Collector of Goa signed an agreement with Indian navy with the condition that it would allow limited access to the devotees to the island. Many residents of Goa have been trying to get limited access to these shrines based on this agreement but without success. It was the lack of response from the centre since 2005 that prompted D’Sa to send a petition to Prime Minister Modi and he got a positive response to his letter.

Following the letter he wrote to Prime Minister, the PMO office had sought information on the issues raised by D’sa from all the stakeholders involving Goa, Karnataka and the Seabird authorities (based in Karwar). The PMO in a letter addressed to the Chief Secretary of Goa had directed him to provide details within 15 days. The PMO has sought information on the reasons for barring entry to the churches and the status of the shrines. He has also sought information from various authorities concerned on the issues raised by D’Sa in his letter to the Prime Minister.

The Chief Secretary of Goa, Seabird authorities and the District Commissioner of Uttara Kannada have already sent their individual reports to the PMO in this regard. The positive response from the PMO has given a glimmer of hope to Catholic devotees who wanted access to visit the island twice a year to celebrate these feasts and these demands were genuine. Despite positive response from the PMO, Natividade D’Sa’s letter to the Prime Minister of Portuguese seeking the intervention of a foreign country into the internal affairs of the country has irked many. It is a sovereign issue and it is felt that seeking the intervention of a foreign country is in contravention of the letter and spirit of Indian sovereignty.

An over-enthusiastic D’Sa, a septuagenarian was on cloud nine when he received a response from the Goan origin Prime Minister of Portugal. The letter from Portugal Prime Minister which is in Portuguese reads, “The Prime Minister’s office acknowledges the receipt of your letter and the Prime Minister of Portugal will study as to how to look into the issue”. It remains to be seen whether D’Sa and other devotees have complicated the issue due to their overenthusiasm.

The enthusiasm and concern of devotees is no doubt genuine though their brazen act of writing to the head of a state of a foreign country is sheer callousness. The chapel dedicated to St Francis Asisi is in total ruins due to lack of maintenance ever since it has come under the control of Indian navy. However, the church dedicated to Our Lady of Springs has been restored in 2018 by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Our Lady of Springs Church has great significance to Catholics as it bears the insignia awarded by Rome as the Mother Church. In addition, the island also has a monument atop the hill in memory of the seven Indian soldiers who were killed two days after the liberation of Goa on December 22, 1961 as the Portuguese were oblivious of Goa’s liberation.


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Comment on this article

  • Agnello, Mangaluru

    Mon, Nov 11 2019

    Lets preserve the churches as a matter of history. For reasons of faith we have so many other churches..

    DisAgree Agree [21] Reply Report Abuse

  • H. Almeida., Bendur/Andheri

    Mon, Nov 11 2019

    Similar Church exists, close to my residence... St Johns Baptist church, within the precinct of an export electronic zone in SEEPZ, Andheri.... This is a strictly restricted area, within lies a 440 year old defunct church... in total ruins !!!!! worshippers, are allowed to celebrate mass only once a ye ..... Anjavadi island, is a very important naval base. hope they give acesss once a year for celebrations of the holy Eucharist !!!!!!

    DisAgree Agree [15] Reply Report Abuse

  • James, Belman

    Mon, Nov 11 2019

    Don't worry Mr.D'sa. You made a blunder inviting foreign country intervention when you got positive reply from our PMO.
    After 7 decades from now S.C. will alot 5acre land somewhere in Karwar.

    DisAgree [16] Agree [18] Reply Report Abuse

  • stephen, Mangalore

    Mon, Nov 11 2019

    Thank you to our Prime minister, But if it is national security issue then please don't allow people to Enter. U never Know it may happen like srilanka on Easter day when people entered in guise of attending the church and Blew everyone.

    DisAgree [9] Agree [28] Reply Report Abuse

  • Rupesh, Mumbai/ Mangalore

    Mon, Nov 11 2019

    It looks like abandoned place. access should be given to catholics. for security ours solders are there to maintain security. If it was belonged to other faith then govt would have taken action long before.

    DisAgree [8] Agree [28] Reply Report Abuse

  • Sachin Dsouza, Bangalore

    Tue, Nov 12 2019

    I dont agree with your last sentence, it was during congress regime, access was denied in 2005 and congress continued to rule for next decade.Its modi who is eagerly responded . But old man complicated it.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse


Title : Anjadiva Island - A glimmer of hope for Catholic devotees


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