Panaji: Pope Francis will be unable to attend Goa's biggest religious event of the decade, the Exposition of Spanish Saint Francis Xavier, Archbishop Fr. Filipe Neri Ferrao said Wednesday.
Fr. Alfred Vaz, the chief organiser of the decinnial event, said at a press conference that over five million devotees would be attending the exposition from across India and the world.
"They (Vatican authorities) have informed us that it would not be possible for the Pope to visit India," Ferrao said, putting to rest all speculation about the Catholic leader could be attending the grand event.
Every 10 years, remains of the missionary saint, also called the 'Patron Saint of Goa', are kept on public display at an event called the Exposition of St. Francis Xavier at the Old Goa Church complex located 10 km from Panaji.
Earlier, the body was on permanent display. However, after church authorities noticed deterioration of the corpse which was for nearly two centuries miraculously incorruptible, they decided to have it viewed only once every 10 years during the event popularly known as Exposition.
Fr. Alfred Vaz, the convenor of the St. Francis Xavier Exposition Committee, said the event will be held Nov 22 to Jan 4.
"During the last exposition in 2004, we had a crowd of 30 lakh. This year, we expect around 50 lakh during the Exposition," he said.
Catholics account for nearly 30 percent of the state's 1.4 million population.