Authorities in Lisbon have expressed concern over plans to demolish a 16th-century Portuguese chapel in Daman, India, according to news agency Lusa.
Local authorities in Daman – on the west coast of India and a Portuguese territory until it was taken by Indian troops in 1961 – say they want to turn the site of the Chapel of Our Lady of Anguish into a football field.
Portugal’s foreign affairs minister, João Gomes Cravinho, has told the media that a dialogue is underway with Indian officials. Culture minister Pedro Adão e Silva says Lisbon is actively monitoring the situation on the ground.
Daman’s Catholics are planning to take their fight to save the chapel to the High Court in Mumbai.
Their lawyer, Mário Lopes, told Lusa that “The chapel is over 400 years old, has a lot of architectural, historical and cultural value, and is a place of worship, venerated not only by the Catholic community but also by the non-Catholics of Daman, uninterrupted, for over four centuries”.
He added that there was “no legal basis” for local authorities to acquire and demolish the sacred structure.
Parish priest Father Brian Rodrigues told Lusa that the community was vulnerable.
“We are an increasingly smaller community”, he said. “We used to be more than 3,000 Catholics in Daman, today we are reduced to about 400, and the government knows this”.
The administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has presided over a violent surge of Hindu fundamentalism in India that has seen the demolition and targeting of mosques as well as widespread attacks on Christians.