- ucanews.com

India ,  March 02 1998 : Celebration of the fourth centennial of Saint Gonsalo Garcia´s martyrdom has ended with a Church leader indicating that a new diocese is planned for the area in which the first Indian saint grew up.

Some 10,000 people attended a function Feb. 8 ending yearlong celebrations in honor of one of 26 Catholics crucified in 1597 in Nagasaki, Japan.

Archbishop Ivan Dias of Bombay, leading 10 prelates at the event, lauded area Catholics for their "sterling qualities and dynamic faith" and for making a mark in the education, health and social sectors.

Retired Bombay archbishop Cardinal Simon Pimenta said it is "a matter of pride" for the Bassein people that the first Indian saint came from the area.

A message from Pope John Paul II was also read at the ceremony in which the bishops, including three from Bassein, confirmed some 2,000 children.

Saint Garcia, the son of a Portuguese soldier and an Indian woman, is the second patron of Bombay archdiocese after Saint Francis Xavier, canonized in 1602. At 16 Garcia left for Japan with other missioners after learning Japanese in Goa, then a Portuguese colony.

Records say that after working in Nagasaki for eight years, he left unhappy with the Jesuits´ refusal to admit him because of their policy then of not taking natives.

After working for a time on Hiroda Island, in 1583 he went to Manila, where he met the Franciscans, who admitted him five years later. He subsequently returned to Japan, where he converted many Buddhists in Nagasaki.

Saint Garcia´s biographers say that Japanese Buddhists´ opposition to his work led to his arrest and martyrdom.

On Feb. 4, 1597, the saint and 25 others were tied to horses and dragged through the streets of Osaka. Two days later they were taken to the Nagasaki hills and crucified. The 26 Martyrs of Japan were declared saints in 1862.

Quadricentennial celebrations began a year ago with the ordination of eight priests, Father Calton Kenny, a local priest, told UCA News.

At the concluding ceremony, Archbishop Dias congratulated the people on the new diocese being planned for them. Diocesan officials said the Bombay archdiocese has allocated 5 million rupees for civil works in the new diocese.

Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Dabre of Bombay, the region´s ecclesiastical adviser since 1990, praised the Bassein Christian community for preserving and promoting Indian and Maharashtrian culture.

The centenary program was presented in Marathi, the language of Maharashtra state. Bassein lies in Maharashtra´s Thane district.

Bishop Dabre urged the people to follow Saint Garcia´s example and thanked them for their interest in Church life.

Some 100,000 of Bombay archdiocese´s 600,000 Catholics live in Bassein, some 85 kilometers north of India´s commercial capital of Mumbai. The enclave has produced several nuns and priests, said Bishop Dabre, who is from the region.

Read more about Saint Gonsalo Garcia at http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=6988

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