Archbishop Patriarch Filipe Neri Ferrão will have donned the purple fascia for the last time on Friday, for on Saturday August 27 he will be elevated to the rank of Cardinal.
When he returns to Goa from Rome, where the Consistory creating cardinals is being held, the colour of the sash he will be wearing will be red, while on his head will also rest a red birretta, both symbolic of a prince of the Catholic Church.
Goa has been eagerly awaiting this day since the announcement was made in late May. The enthusiasm is seen by the number of people who have travelled to Rome for the Consistory. While Archbishop Ferrao was accompanied by his Secretary Rev Joaquim Loiola Pereira, a few days later, a number of priests also left for Rome to attend the Consistory and be with the new Cardinal.
Sources also confirmed that members of Ferrão’s family have also landed in Rome. On Sunday, all of those who have gone from Goa to Rome for the Consistory will participate in a thanksgiving mass, offered by the family and friends of the new Cardinal.
Fr Romeu Godinho of the Diocesan Catechetical Centre, Old Goa, said that the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman is overjoyed and immensely grateful to God for giving them the day to see their very own Archbishop Patriarch being elevated to the College of Cardinals. "Saturday will indeed be a 'red-letter day' for us Goans and a great moment to celebrate the faith of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman. As a Cardinal of the Holy Mother Church, he will now have the added responsibility in the decision-making process and the mission of the Church worldwide. On taking up the role of a Cardinal, in addition to serving us as our Archbishop Patriarch, a lot of skill, a brave heart and soul and good health of spirit and mind is needed in fulfilling all the responsibilities and tasks assigned."
It is not just priests in Goa who are overjoyed by the elevation, but priests in Rome too. Fr Franky Fernandes, a priest of the Archdiocese of Goa and doing his ecclesiastical studies in Church History at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, said, "It's a matter of great joy for me and I feel honoured to take part in the Consistory in which the son of the soil and the Archbishop from whom I received my priestly ordination a year ago, will be raised to that privileged rank of cardinal-priest. As the Archdiocese of Goa is getting its first Cardinal and India, its first Cardinal-Patriarch, I consider myself fortunate to witness this historic moment during my stay in Rome."
The laity in the State is also exultant. Prof Isabel Santa Rita Vas, who has collaborated with the Archdiocese said, "It is a matter not only of great pride but also of enormous joy for us in Goa that our Archbishop Filipe Neri is elevated to Cardinal by our Pope Francis. As a granddaughter of Aldona, I am doubly happy. We are aware that it's a position of added responsibility and we assure him of our support. Now it may take us a little time to get used to addressing Bishop Filipe Neri as Your Eminence. We pray for abundant blessings on Cardinal Filipe Neri Ferrão."
When Goa on Saturday gets its first cardinal of the Archdiocese, it will end a long wait of almost 500 years. The Archdiocese will complete the fifth centenary of its creation in 2033. Yet, despite such a long history and the important role it played in the spread of Catholicism in South and South East Asia, the Archbishop of Goa, who is also the Patriarch of the East Indies, had never been raised to the status of a Cardinal.
There may be several historical reasons for this and the conflict between the Padroado and Propaganda Fide has already been spoken of Adv Elgar Noronha who is another close collaborator of the Archdiocese put this history into context when he said, "After the very first one (Goan Bishop) led a revolt, the Portuguese barred Goan Bishops including in 1939 Mgr (Francisco Xavier de Piedade) Rebello though greatly recommended. Our first Cardinal was chosen for his personal virtues."
When speaking of a revolt, Noronha was referring to D Matheus de Castro, the first Goan bishop who had revolted against the Portuguese in the 17th century.
Whatever the reasons, Goa is getting a Cardinal long after Archbishops in other dioceses of India were elevated to the College of Cardinals, and that is seen as recognition from the Vatican.
Fr Fernandes said, "We Goan priests are also elated as his cardinalate brings universal recognition to our beloved Goa that has contributed immensely in fields of evangelization, education and empowerment of the society."
Taking a more pragmatic view of the situation and looking at the immediate future, Noronha said, "The need of the hour is three Auxiliary Bishops for which there are some very obvious choices." As the Cardinal Archbishop will now play a bigger role in the universal church, this is a necessity.
Noronha, however, did not end with just seeking auxiliary bishops for Goa. He said, "The Catholic community in Goa is in acute need of a great spiritual and moral transformation which is the task before the church leadership."
There are many in the diocese who would readily agree with Noronha, and this perhaps will be the biggest challenge before the new Cardinal. Of course, having shepherded the diocese since 2004, and ten years before that as auxiliary bishop, Rev Ferrão is all too aware of the task before him.
In fact, a few days before he left for Rome, in a letter to the people of Goa seeking prayers, Archbishop Ferrão had said, "What awaits me seems to be a weighty task, one that is impossible to manage without spiritual support. Hence, I ask, above all, for your prayers and sacrifices, so that I may be able to respond to the new challenges that this appointment will bring to my priestly ministry."
In response to this, there have been special services at various parishes in the Archdiocese. Catholics in Goa have, therefore, prepared for this day in joyful spirituality.