India defense minister says ban is due to secutity reasons.
Panaji: Catholics in Goa have expressed outrage after India's defense minister announced a ban on pilgrims going to Asia's oldest Catholic church situated on a naval base in the former Portuguese colony.
The decision to ban visitors to the Church of Our Lady of Springs on Anjediva Island was due to security reasons, Manohar Parrikar told parliament without elaborating.
The church was built in 1506 by Portuguese missionaries. The shrine of St. Francis of Assisi is a big attraction for pilgrims.
Local Catholics said the government is breaking a long-standing agreement, which allows pilgrims to visit the church on two feast days each year.
They said the Goa government gifted Anjidiva Island to the Indian Navy on the precondition that access for pilgrims to churches on the island would be guaranteed for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord on Feb. 2 and the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4.