22nd April 2016
His Holiness Pope Francis
VATICAN CITY, EUROPE. Fax: +00390669882417
Injustice is not invincible, Laudato Sí, Para 74
Dear Holy Father Pope Francis,
Warm Greetings of Peace and Solidarity from Goa, India!
Inspired by your encyclical Laudato Sí we seek your attention to few points in your capacity as Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church.
1. Our Island in Mandovi river is sold by Goa Archbishop Felipe Neri Ferrao without informing us in most cunning manner. We islanders for many centuries lived in harmony by tilling the land. Tilling as you have explored in Laudato Sí in Para 66.
2. Our Island has an area of 7,24,850 square meters of land. We have Santus Cristus Church listed on page 795 of the Catholic Directory of India 2013 prepared by Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India (CBCI) with stated catholic population as 92. The remaining people of island share other faiths.
3. Press Statement of the Archbishop’s House, Panjim dated January 02, 2016 states that Holy See has granted permission to sell our island in 1997 (vide letter Prot. No. 1466/97 dated 08/04/1997). This is in response to Application made by the Archdiocesan authorities. Till date even though 19 years has passed by Goa Archdiocesan Authorities has never shared the letters from Holy See with the People of Vanxim island. Did Holy See approve selling of Vanxim for converting it into luxury hotel, luxury villas, Golf Course and Golf Club, Private Marinas, and Casinos ? Did then Goa Archbishop Gonsalves, presented this reality of proposal to Holy See in their application? People living here in Vanxim are afraid of loosing our ancestral land only because Archbishop has committed this blunder willfully on record (Documents solicited under Right to Information Act 2005 proves all this)
4. Archbishop of Goa Felipe Neri Ferrao sold paddy fields and horticultural lands to broker Mahendra Gaunekar on February 11, 2006 through the then diocesan procurator Fr.Arlino De Mello. The land was sold very cheaply at the rate of Rs.06/- per square meters for paddy fields admeasuring 3,00,275 square meters and Rs.20/- per square meters for horticultural lands close to water bodies admeasuring 1,85,275 square meters without informing the island dwellers and tenants. My family is one of them.
5. Then through the deed of transfer and assignment of rights dated February 16, 2006 Archbishop Ferrao not only transferred Church rights over paddy fields, water bodies and horticulture land illegally sold, but also sold survey no. 1/1 that has land admeasuring 98,200 square meters of area with dwelling houses and Santus Cristus Church to Mahendra Gaunekar. Vanxim residents were never consulted before taking this step by the Archbishop.
6. Press release dated January 02, 2016 from the Archbishop’s house also reveals that from 1992 onwards various companies and individuals were approaching Archdiocesan authorities to buy Vanxim. Archbishop Gonsalves never made this known to the islanders. Instead he signed Agreement to Sale of Vanxim with Mahendra Gaunekar on April 09, 1999.
7. 1992 is the year when Goa Diocese sold Souto Maior land in Caranzalem near Panjim unethically and illegally to real estate agents. Litigations are still on in civil courts.
8. Mahendra Gaunekar then signed Joint Development Agreement on August 11, 2009 with corporate bodies - Ozone Leisure and Resorts Private limited, Tuscan Consultant and Developers and Ozone Propex Private Limited. This agreement has plans laid out to use Vanxim island for Golf Course with Golf Club, 5 star hotel of minimum 200 rooms and cottages, Luxury villas, Resorts, Spa, private marinas etc. Mahendra Gaunekar was paid Rs.30,00,00,000/- (Rupees Thirty Crores only) as security deposit. Islanders kept in dark.
9. The above entire exercise was carried on without informing People of Vanxim island. Then in 2010 began the times of bullying and pressurizing, bribing and co-opting of the Vanxim islanders to surrender our land rights to cultivate paddy. Mahendra Gaunekar and the Goa Archdiocese dragged tenants to the civil court seeking to surrender their rights over land. Protective walls protecting paddy field were breached and paddy fields were flooded rendering cultivation impossible. This is also the time resistance began and still continues to do so with more people joining in. There is also huge coverage time and again in digital and print media.
10. On March 04, 2016 we had faxed to Apostolic Nuncio in India Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio in New Delhi with a request to intimate you in detail the following. Archbishop Pennacchio was in Goa subsequent to our letter for National Conference of Diocesan Priests in India. He didn’t summon us nor sent written reply to us. Since the situation on ground is deteriorating we decided to write to you directly.
11. Several issues has remained unanswered and they cry for attention:
1. All the letters from Tenants Association of Vanxim written in the decade of 1990s that Archbishop and his team claims to have a hand in sale of Vanxim by granting NOC to sell Vanxim. Who are the signatories of these letters?
2. All the letters sent to Vatican from the Goa Archbishop and his team seeking permissions to sell Vanxim as per requirements of Canon 1291. And all the letters granting permissions to sell Vanxim received from Vatican. All must be made public.
3. All the reports as per Canon 1292 must be made public. They are the consent reports and minutes from the financial council of the Goa Diocese and the College of Consultors and the experts that gave their advice to sell Vanxim.
4. Names of those constituted financial council of the Goa Diocese that took decision on Vanxim, Names of those constituted College of Consultors and the names of Experts who recommended sale of Vanxim in entirety. All this needed as per Canon 1292.
5. What is the actual total amount and where the money has gone from Vanxim sale? It is obvious that black money is involved in huge sums.
Documents of gift of Vanxim to Santa Monica and the obligations attached to be fulfilled must be made public. Which year Vanxim was handed over to Santa Monica Convent? Who did this? For what reason? What are the details of weight or Pessâo involved?
We are confident that in this case too you will intervene like the cases of Child Abuse and corruption by clergy in different parts of the world and once again it will be proved that injustice is not invincible. People are concerned and worried.
Awaiting for your kind response. Thanking Your Holiness in anticipation,
President, Goa State Unit