The annual Feast of St Francis Xavier, which used to attract thousands of people every year, was held in a simple manner in Old Goa on Thursday as physical gatherings were not allowed at the event in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Long queues were seen in the morning outside the campus of the Basilica of Bom Jesus, where the relics of the 16th-century Spanish saint are preserved, but steps were taken to prevent crowding at the venue, and the event was also telecast live online, a priest said.
Precautions were taken to ensure social distancing and also allow people time to offer prayers at the relics, said Fr Patricio Fernandes, Rector of the Basilica of Bom Jesus.
This year, the Church authorities in the coastal state have cancelled public gatherings for the congregational masses due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
A senior priest at the Basilica said parishioners were not allowed to attend the masses, including the main event held at 10.30 am.
For the feast mass, which is the main event, only 160 representatives from various parishes were invited and 40 priests also participated in it, he said.
The masses (congregational prayers) were telecast live on various online platforms so that people do not move out of their homes, he said.
The veneration of the relics of St Francis Xavier was allowed from 5 am, but with a limited number of people at a time.
The masses were streamed online from 6 am on various social media platforms, he said.
Till Wednesday, Goa reported 48,241 COVID-19 cases and 693 deaths due to the disease, as per official figures.