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Goa set for Christmas amid tight security

The four centuries-old church will break its tradition on Sunday and will hold mass inside the church.

india Updated: Dec 24, 2006 14:54 IST

Santa Claus hat-sporting youth, last minute shoppers and decked up churches - Goa is all set to celebrate Christmas on Monday amidst tight security thrown around churches and other important places.

The 140-odd Catholic churches of the state - which boasts of around 30 per cent Catholic population - have planned midnight masses, which will beginon Sunday evening and culminate in Monday's celebrations.

Security concerns are clearly evident, with important churches like Basilica Bom Jesus at Old Goa - housing the holy relic of St Francis Xavier - being guarded by Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) guards.

"Two companies of CISF are stationed in Goa and they will be relieved only after we get our India Reserve Batallion team in March next year," state police chief B S Brar said.

He ruled out any specific threat and said that the measures are standard ones.

Important churches will be provided with the metal detectors and parishioners will be scanned before entering.

"This is happening for the first time but we have to do it due to security concerns," parish priest of Panaji's Immacculate Conception Church (ICC) Antimo Gomes said.

The four centuries-old church will break its tradition on Sunday and will hold mass inside the church. "We used to have it on the steps. But since metal detectors cannot be installed in such a vast space, we are holding it inside the church," Gomes said.

Though concerned police officials met local priests, briefing them about measures to be taken during celebrations, officials at the Archbishop's palace contended that they dont have any specific instructions from the department.

Meanwhile, major markets in Goa were flooded with last minute shoppers. Youths sporting Santa Claus headgears were spotted on the streets, ahead of the celebrations.

First Published: Dec 24, 2006 13:36 IST