With refrence to: 

Fr. Chico Monteiro: A Seed in Oblivion . . .
by Dom Martin

[TGF Foreword: Those who remember the affable but firm
Goan director of the Lar dos Estudantes, will be glad
to see his warm smile, but saddened by what the Indian
Government aided and abetted by the anti-Catholic
Bandodkar Goa Government did to this delightful Son of
the Soil.  In fact, the very same people who
"socialized"  with . and greased the Portuguese
dictator Salazar, assisted in this unnecessary act of
hypocrisy and mental torture ]
The quintessential scope of existence is often times
camouflaged by the complex nature of our purpose in
it. Therefore heroes and villains among us, as also
saints and pagans, idealists and charlatans. Even
infidels! One effects the other or becomes affected by
the other. And once in every while, someone comes into
being, culls through humanity's pile of discarded
hopes and aspirations, and departs living us with a
renewed sense of what existence is all about. Fr.
Chico Monteiro was one such sentient being, whose
contribution in this regard was slighted by the fact
that he was a priest, not an activist. Had he been the
latter, his name, unquestionably, would have been
paralleled with greatness.

It was the mid 1960's when the State -- following
Goa's liberation -- issued an edict to Goans holding
Portuguese passports to surrender them, or in the
alternative, emigrate to Portugal. Fr. Chico, who was
a conservative in the material and theological sense,
opted for defiance. He declined to surrender his
Portuguese passport and challenged the State's order
of deportation. His defiant stand startled the Goan
community and practically overnight, found himself
entrapped in the arena of political contempt, social
ridicule and alienation.

At this point, it is necessary to recount that
Catholicism was not indigenous to the land; it was
brought in by the Portuguese. With Catholicism, as
with any other religion, cultural prejudice and
political affiliation became bred. And it was not Fr.
Chico's elaborate scheme to come born into a Catholic
fold. It was a fact of fate. The consequences,
however, were unpredictable and inevitable. Almost
tantamount to being asked to alter the color of one's
skin upon being subjected to a whole new political

Arrested and placed in judicial custody, Fr. Chico
summed up his defense with a single line: "I was born
in Goa, and lived all my life peacefully in Goa."
Unbeknownst to Fr. Chico, his layman's version of
defense resonated the very essence of the Geneva
convention: One's place of birth conclusively
determines one's nationality, and it is against all
statutory and constitutional law and principles to
denationalize one's nationality.

The trial gained notoriety, and it was the Indian
Government which suddenly found itself coming under
judicial scrutiny and going on the defensive. The
trial also aroused Salazar's interest. The result?
Portugal appointed Queen Elizabeth's personal counsel
to represent Fr. Chico. Such notoriety, however, was
not without its price. Fr. Chico was transferred from
the Aguada jail in Goa to a maximum security jail in
Patiala, where he remained incarcerated in solitary
confinement for about a year, and subjected to
psychological abuse. The attempt by authorities to
fragment his spirit only led to the realization that
they were dealing with one whose spiritual temperament
was impervious to human tampering.

When the matter wended its way to the Supreme Court,
the Justices muffled a brief admonishment. It was to
be the last gavel, directing Fr. Chico back to jail in
Patiala, not to freedom. It wasn't the end of hope.
Whether by coincidence or divine prompting, the Holy
See decided to intervene, successfully negotiating the
release of Fr. Chico for that of Dr. Telo de
Mascarenhas, a freedom fighter who was serving a life
term in Portugal. Fr. Chico's release, however, was to
be conditional. Upon his return to Goa, he was placed
under house arrest in his ancestral home in Candolim
and barred from holding any official position. A
decade later, the terms of the house-arrest were
relaxed to where he was able to walk within the
confines of his village. Subsequently, he was allowed
to once again travel freely within the territory of

It is unclear if the judicial curfew was ever lifted,
or if Fr. Chico ever set foot outside Goa. An avid
traveler in his prior days, he appeared to graciously
resign himself to a life of judicial exile. As a
priest, his allegiance to the Divine was of an
uncommon grain and stature. As a man, he was genuinely
attracted to all people as human beings. Despite been
consecrated a Monsignor, he continued to don the
cassock of a habitual priest. It was his way of
affirming his disinclination for any position in the
patriarchal hierarchy of the Church. In general, he
had an unbiased enthusiasm for life and an untiring
work ethic. As for his smiles, they were a trademark
of his effulgent demeanor. They were vibrant with
sincerity, and ungrudgingly impartial. 

"Bloom where you have been planted!", urged the late
music maestro, Fr. Lourdino Barreto, to his students.
A stalwart in his own controversial right, he was also
a close friend and admirer of Fr. Chico. And bloom
they did, without being uprooted from their deep
convictions. On October 30, 1990, Fr. Chico was laid
to rest in the soil he was planted in seven decades
before. The following year, he was posthumously
conferred the Vincent Xavier Verodiano Award. It was
to be the only civic recognition ascribed to his name.

If life is an intended conflict between the material
and the spiritual, Fr. Chico proffered no treatise or
comment. At least, he left no known written account of
his crusade, and his grave mentions nothing beyond his
name and the statistics of his life-span. Yet through
it all, he held his head in a dignified rather than
arrogant manner, exhibiting no scars of bitterness or
intonations of having privately argued with God. Had
his act of defiance occurred a decade later, he would
in all likelihood have been hailed a ‘conscientious
objector', and spared from being hauled away and
treated as a traitor. Instead, he became a prisoner of
his conscience, and remained one to the end of his

In summary, there's no mathematical distinction
between what's justly right and what's unjustly right.
It's all simply a matter of subjective rationale,
reinforced by prevailing laws. Hopefully someday, time
will reorient itself and manifest the extent to which
Fr. Chico's fight for human rights in a remote part of
the world, in the mid-sixties, might have influenced
other human rights activists elsewhere. Like a seed
that was sowed and drifted into oblivion, and found
its prodigious sprout some place else . . . !

Permission to publish this article was granted by
author on June 25, 2003

- Forwarded by http://www.goa-world.com 

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