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Christmas crib 2018 in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. Christmas crib 2018 in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.  

Indian Catholic Church wishes love, peace, harmony for Christmas

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), broadcast a Christmas message on All India Radio World Service on Dec. 25, pledging the continued commitment of India’s Catholic Church for a world of love and forgiveness, peace and harmony, and justice and truth.

India’s Catholic bishops have issued a message for Christmas 2018, reiterating the Church’s commitment to the poor, the downtrodden and the marginalized. 

In a message broadcast on All India Radio World Service on Christmas day, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said that the Church in India pledges to continue in the footsteps of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who was born and died poor in order to establish the Kingdom of God where love and forgiveness, peace and harmony, justice and truth may reign.

“May the celebration of birth of our Lord Jesus Christ give us new encouragement to usher in love, peace and harmony in our country and in the world.”  “May each one of us promote truth and justice and may we live like true brothers and sisters on this earth,” Bishop Mascarenhas urged.

Below is the transcript of the Christmas message of Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas:

 It is with great joy and happiness that I bring to you my dear Indian brothers and sisters and men and women of good will everywhere the Christmas greetings of the Catholic Church in India. Every year on 25th of December the world celebrates Christmas the Birth of Jesus Christ. Even while houses and buildings will be decorated and illuminated with bright lights and colours, shopping malls will be full with everyone looking for gifts for dear ones, and Christmas trees, Santa Claus and Christmas functions will abound, the real attention will be focused on the Holy Mass in the Church and on the little baby Jesus lying in the manger. The star that shone that night pointing to the Birth of Jesus Christ and the Crib that we put up in remembrance of the humble birth of our saviour are just symbols of the message that our Lord Jesus Christ brought to Humanity. And the Message is  GOD LOVES US. Yes, as St. John tells us, "God so loved the world that he gave his only son to humankind".

The thirty-three years that Jesus walked on this earth, especially the last three years of active ministry to the poor, the downtrodden and the marginalized, reveals what this love means.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, of his life, his ministry his ultimate sacrifice for humanity. It is the remembrance of all that he stood for and of everything he taught us. As our Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi would say about Jesus Christ, “A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”

Jesus proclaimed to us the coming of the Kingdom of God: a kingdom in which love and forgiveness, peace and harmony, justice and truth would reign. The Birth of Jesus had been prophesied by the Prophet Isaiah as the birth of the Prince of peace, his reign was foretold as a governance of righteousness. About his Kingdom the Prophet had declared, that on that day, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the baby goat, and the calf and the lion and the fatling will live together, and a little child shall lead them.” Indeed, Jesus is that little child who later taught us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Christmas is an occasion for us in the Catholic Church to renew our dedication and commitment to continue serving with love and compassion our countrymen and women as we have been always doing down the ages. Our nation-building, educational activities, health care services and other compassionate works are guided by Jesus’ Command, “love your neighbour as yourself.” Following the example of our Lord and master, our hearts and our lives reach out in a special way to those abandoned and excluded, to those left out on the peripheries of development, to the poor, the dalits , the tribals and to all those who remain on the margins of our society. In the words of St. Mother Teresa, an ardent follower of Jesus Christ we can say, “I try to give to the poor people for love what the rich could get for money . No, I wouldn’t touch a leper for a thousand pounds; yet I willingly care for him for the love of God.” We want to continue working with the Government and with all men and women of good will to bring solace and comfort, education and health care, love and security to all who need it.

The birth of Jesus changed the world forever.  Our Great Indian spiritual leader, Swami Vivekananda would say, “Had I lived in Palestine, in the days of Jesus of Nazareth, I would have washed his feet, not with my tears, but with my heart's blood!”   Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace. Today more than ever before our country and the world hunger for peace. Amidst wars and violence, mob lynchings and religious persecutions, and even as fringe elements become bolder and attempt to set communities against communities and groups against groups the voice of Jesus rings loud and clear, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God". We pray for our country and for the world that the kingdom of peace and harmony may be ushered in, that the Almighty may raise many peacemakers among us. We pray for our beloved country India known for its long tradition of unity in diversity and of tolerance without discrimination, that the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the baby goat, the calf and the lion and the fatling may be able to dwell together in peace and harmony without being forced to be other than what they are.

Christmas is the Birthday of Jesus who lived and died for truth and justice. Opposing discrimination of any kind he ate with outcasts and treated women with respect and dignity. He asks a Samaritan woman at the well to give him water to drink. This was a direct challenge to the social system of the day in which the Samaritans were considered low castes. In the parable of "love your neighbour", Jesus portrays the Samaritan, as the real follower of God, superseding even the Priests and the Levites who do not seem to understand God’s commandment to love one’s neighbour. We pray for our country and society that the message of Jesus may echo in our ears and that we may end all discrimination based on caste or religion, on language or region. May we learn to treat each other with love, respect, and equal dignity.

Jesus taught his disciples, “The Truth will make you free”. He stood for truth even to the point of sacrificing his life on the cross.  In a world plagued by fake news, often deceived by manipulations and lies, when one finds it difficult to trust the Print, electronic and social media, Christmas reminds us that freedom comes from truth. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ who taught us to stand by the truth, to live by the truth with courage and if necessary to die for the truth.

May the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ give us new encouragement to usher in love, peace and harmony in our country and in the world. May each one of us promote truth and justice and may we live like true brothers and sisters on this earth.

In the name of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India and in the name of the Catholic Church I wish you all God's blessings at Christmas. We pray for our political, spiritual and civic leaders and for each one of you and your families. May the Divine Child Jesus accompany you each day of the New year 2019 and may he grant you prosperity and peace. I wish you a joy-filled Christmas and a happy New Year.

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas

Secretary General

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India

25 December 2018, 13:00