By Robin Gomes
The Catholic community of Bangladesh in Rome came together Sunday evening in a spirit of conviviality and sharing to celebrate Christmas as well as the 47th anniversary of the national Victory Day.
Despite a cold snap and several back in Bangladesh for Christmas holidays, a crowd of some 70, including men, women, children, babies, priests, nuns and seminarians turned up at the Parish of St. Mary Major in San Vito. Some Italians and Indians were also present.
The church close to Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major is where the Catholic community of Bangladesh gathers once every month, usually on the 3rd Sunday, to celebrate Holy Mass in the Bengali language.
Bijoy Dibosh, or Victory Day, is celebrated on December 16 to commemorate the victory over the Pakistani forces in the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 which formally concluded the Bangladesh Liberation War and ended Pakistani rule in what was then called East Pakistan.
Earlier on March 25 that year, East Pakistan declared independence from Pakistan. The following day, March 26, is observed as Independence Day. Both Victory Day and Independence Day are national holidays.
The joy of Christmas
The Bangladesh Christian Association of Rome organized the event that began with a concelebrated Mass with 7 priests, presided over by Father Peter Chanel Gomes.
Reflecting on the readings, the priest from Dhaka Archdiocese delivered a homily on the joy the Christmas brings. While Book of Zephaniah urges Israel to rejoice, St. Paul’s tells the Philippians that they can experience happiness and peace by being kind, by praying and by being grateful.
In the Gospel of Luke, Fr. Gomes explained, John the Baptist speaks about sharing with others and practising justice. He commented on the word ‘joy’ explaining that ‘j’ stands for ‘Jesus’, ‘o’ stands for ‘others’ and ‘y’ stands for ‘you’ that should come last. This, he said, is the key to the happiness and joy of Christmas.
Never forget your roots
The get-together that followed included Christmas carols, a recital of a rhyme by a child, a lucky dip with Christmas gifts for all, cutting of a Christmas cake and a simple meal with typical home-made Bengali preparations.
Kicking off the party after Mass, PIME priest Father Gabriel Amal Costa commented on the 47th anniversary of their Victory Day. He urged those present to feel themselves proud of their motherland and Bengali identity whatever be their current citizenship. He also urged them to remember with gratitude the countless men, women and children who suffered and died in the Bangladesh Liberation War.
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