Monday, July 24, 2006

Konkani Bible Not Church, Hope of Romi-Script Lobby

Roman-Script Lobby Finds Hope In Konkani Bible, Not In Church Stance

By Bosco de Souza Eremita

July 20, 2006

PANAJI, India (UCAN) -- The popularity of the newly published Konkani language Bible using Roman script has encouraged people who want it to become the official script for the language.

Konkani, one of India's 22 official languages, has no script of its own. It is the official state language of Goa, where a 1987 law adopted Devanagari as its script, but Devanagari, used by several languages in northern India, is unfamiliar to Catholics in Goa.

Goan Catholics, who comprise 26 percent of the state's 1.3 million people, use the Roman script that Portuguese missioners introduced centuries ago.

On July 4, the Roman script lobby sent India's President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam several documents, including a copy of the new Bible, to press its case.

The archdiocese of Goa and Daman released the Konkani Bible in Roman script on June 3 in Panaji, capital of Goa, 1,910 kilometers southwest of New Delhi, and the book reportedly became a bestseller in Goa within a month.

According to the publishers, the Konkani Bible's initial run of 60,000 copies was sold out during its pre-publication sale. The archdiocese plans to print another 40,000 copies by the end of this year.

"The fact that this book in Roman script has the highest print run in Konkani proves the Roman script is the language of the masses," Ulhas Buyao, a Hindu supporter of the Roman script, told UCA News.

The Roman-script lobby has also sent the Indian president a memorandum signed by 56,310 people seeking recognition of the script. Their dispatch to the president includes a map of Goa showing the network of 159 parishes, 462 chapels, 171 Catholic social institutions and 278 schools and colleges, "where Konkani written in Roman script is used for all purposes."

The package also contains a 15-minute video clip showing Catholic ceremonies conducted with texts in Roman script, such as celebrations of the Feast of Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier, who based his Asian mission work in Goa.

The All Goa Citizen's Committee for Social Justice and Action (AGCCSJA), a civil rights group, launched the signature campaign and dispatched the memorandum to the president. Following the success of the Roman-script Bible, several political parties, including the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian people's party), have rallied behind the AGCCSJA.

The Nationalist Congress Party, a partner of the ruling coalition, has promised to move an amendment in the state legislature. "The amendment will not interfere with the status of any language, but only grant recognition to the Roman script," party spokesperson Surendra Furtado told UCA News.

Manohar Parrikar, Goa's BJP leader and former chief minister, told UCA News his party "definitely" will do something for the Roman script's recognition. "I am all for it when nearly 400,000 use" the Roman script, he explained.

M.K. Jos, AGCCSJA's spokesperson, claims that the data sent to the president will convince him a "substantial number of Goans" use the Roman script.

A Roman-script delegation raised the same issue with the president when he visited Goa in October 2005. The president told the delegation he sympathizes with their requests and promised to study the issue.

The current law also recognizes Marathi, a language spoken in neighboring Maharashtra state. Hindus in Goa use Marathi in their religious rites, but both Marathi and Devanagiri are alien to Catholics. The Roman-script lobby alleges this has helped Hindus corner government jobs and official grants.

About 50 Church schools now teach the Devanagari script so as to qualify themselves for government grants.

The Roman-script lobby, though euphoric over the success of the Roman-script Konkani Bible, is dismayed by the Church's official stance on the issue.

Father Joaquim Loiola Pereira, secretary to the archbishop of Goa-Daman, told a local newspaper on July 8 that the Church is "all for the advancement of Konkani," but it wants to be "above the controversy of scripts."

The Church official was quoted as saying Konkani is the official language of the state of Goa and the official language of the Church of Goa. "It is the language of our ministry," he said. "All our churches have Konkani Masses. All our books are in Konkani. But the Church is above the controversy of scripts."

UCA News tried but failed several times to contact Father Pereira for comment. Archdiocesan spokesperson Father Raymond Antao was contacted but he declined to comment.

Father Pereira's remarks have upset the Roman-script lobby. Jos maintains that the few priests who oppose the Roman script are "delinquents" who contradict Church practices and precepts. "The bishop should defrock them," the AGCCSJA spokesperson asserted. "They should not be permitted to offer Mass using Roman-script text for religious rites."

Jesuit Father Pratap Naik, who spearheads the Roman-script movement, told UCA News that the archbishop's secretary was expressing his "personal views" and that the Church has yet to take an official position on the issue.
Reproduced by Konkani Catholics with permission from UCAN (

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