Should the church in Goa be brought under the purview of the Right to Information Act? At present, the government says the decision is beyond its authority as the Vatican is a sovereign nation and it is not known if "its institution could be compelled to make their records open to public".
A legislative panel has asked the state law department to study the possibility of bringing the office of the Archbishop patriarch of Goa, Daman and Diu within the ambit of the RTI Act within 15 days.
The department said in written reply to the panel: "The Vatican is recognised as a sovereign nation and the pope is the head of that nation. In that sense it is not known how its institution could be compelled to make their records open to public."
The report of the legislative ad hoc committee on law chaired by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Francis D'Souza was tabled on Monday during the ongoing monsoon session of the Goa legislative assembly.
The D'Souza-led committee's decision to recommend the state law department to "make a comprehensive study" and "forward a detailed report to the committee within 15 days" follows a written suggestion by Antonia Michelle Abel.
Abel said that while the state department of law and the judiciary were covered under the RTI Act, the office of the Archbishop should also be treated in a similar manner.
"Archbishop patriarch of Goa, Daman and Diu, Father Filipe Nery Ferrao, ought to open a public information office for the Church laws (Canons) that he follows and respond to applications made under the RTI act for information on the Code of Canon law (legislative document of the Church)," Abel said in her suggestion to the ad hoc committee, which audits the functioning of various government departments and recommends measures to improve their functioning.
Abel in her formal communication to the legislative committee also said the office of the archbishop over the years had failed to formally convey to the pope about Goa's liberation from the Portuguese regime in 1961, which has resulted in a rather piquant situation.
"The Archbishop patriarch of Goa, Daman and Diu was bound to repeal the Portuguese constitution, laws, customs, culture and traditions and report to His Holiness the Pope to come under the constitution of India, Indian laws, customs, culture and traditions for the survival of the Catholic church in Goa," Abel said.
Goa has a population of 30 percent Christians, a majority of whom are Roman Catholics and owe allegiance to the Archbishop patriarch of Goa, Daman and Diu.