by Robin Gomes
India’s Vice President has commended the nation’s Christians for their service to the marginalized and for contributing to building a new India. “The Catholic community is peace-loving and it contributes immensely to nation building,” Vice President Venkaiah Naidu told a pre-Christmas gathering that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) organized on Dec. 12 in the capital, New Delhi.
“I have been attending Christmas functions at different parts of India as part of my political and social activities. This is the first occasion as the vice president of India that I am participating in a Christmas celebration,” said Naidu, who became the 13th Vice president of India on August 11, this year.
The event to exchange Christmas greetings, organized at the Community Hall of the Sacred Heart Cathedral, was attended by large number of people, CBCI Secretary-General, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas told Vatican News. He spoke to us on his mobile phone from New Delhi.
Bishop Mascarenhas said it was a very special occasion with a hall of some 400 packed to capacity. Among those who attended were important people such as judges, officials, members of parliament, ambassadors of over 25 countries and high-ranking bureaucrats of Delhi. At the end of the event, Mr. Naidu told Bishop Mascarenhas that the gathering was the best he had attended. It was well organized and well attended by the city’s top officials.
Christmas celebrated by all
In his speech, Indian’s Vice President noted that “People all over the world irrespective of caste, creed or nationality celebrate Christmas with great joy and gaiety.” “Jesus is the Son of God. He brings Good news to all peoples, cultures and nations. His message is the message of peace,” said the 68-year old leader who holds the second highest post in India.
Love, joy and service
Stating that Christmas reminds us all to live up to the ideals and values preached and practiced by Jesus Christ, Mr Naidu, who hails from Andhra Pradesh state, said Christmas is the festival of love, joy and sharing. It is a time to renew our commitment to love and serve our families, communities and society; to be just and transparent in our dealings; to promote social and economic inclusion of all; to promote lasting peace between people of different religions and cultures and to promote sustainable development, he added.
Bishop Mascarenhas spoke to Vatican News, picking out two important points from the speech of Mr. Naidu.
According to Mr. Naidu, Bishop Mascaranhas noted, Jesus is the man for all seasons who brings peace and harmony, and everyone must learn from this. Secondly, Naidu’s views about the Catholic Church was very encouraging. The Vice President praised the Catholic Church for the beautiful work for the poor, especially in the fields of education and health care.
The CBCI Secretary General noted that this was not the first time that Mr. Naidu was saying this about the Church. He was a close friend of late Archbishop Saminini Arulappa of Hyderabad, and has a high opinion about the Church in the country.
Education and health care
In his address, India’s Vice President spoke about education as “the most important tool for social transformation.” “It helps impart values compassion, morality and ethics.” In this regard, he noted that Christians “maintain best educational institutions in the country that create awareness about the need of education for the needy.”
Mr. Naidu acknowledged “Christians have opened thousands of dispensaries and hospitals in remote areas and collaborate with the central and state governments.” He urged Christians to continue their service with an added focus on the marginalized sections of society.
Abuse of religion
India’s Vice President also spoke out against misuse of religion, asserting that no religion preaches hatred or violence. “Religion has nothing to do with terror. Terror is the enemy of humanity,” Mr. Naidu said.