Catholics gathered with those of other traditions last week in a city of South West India to celebrate Christmas with efforts promoting peace and harmony.
Bishop Derek Fernandes of Karwar presided over Christmas celebrations Dec. 29 with over 4,000 faithful, as well as extending the joy of the Nativity with those of other religions.
“Such a public manifestation of the birth of our savior is important so as to share with everyone the grace of God and to recount to all that Jesus Christ is Lord,” Fr. Anthony Dias, pastoral director for the Karwar diocese, told CNA Jan. 5.
Bishop Fernandes' Christmas message emphasized the priority of fostering peace, of commitment to sharing the gospel, and of zealously striving in the service of mankind.
The message was in union with Pope Francis' Dec. 25 Urbi et Orbi message, in which he prayed for peace and said, “true peace … is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely 'facade' which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment, starting from God’s gift, from the grace which he has given us in Jesus Christ.”
Karwar's Christmas celebration was hosted by the city's United Catholic Christian Forum, and was attended by representatives of both Hinduism and Islam.
The chief guest, S. R. Naik, a Hindu and a local college professor, said that “Jesus Christ brought the good news of peace, joy, love and forgiveness to all people on earth.”
“The principles he taught by words and deeds are simple truths, which, if followed by all, will certainly establish God’s kingdom on earth,” he continued.
“The secret of the popularity of the Christian faith lies in its simplicity and universal appeal… no one, except Jesus Christ, could and did pray for forgiveness for his enemies from his cross.”
The Christmas celebration began with a prayer and a reading of the Gospel by Karwar's vicar general, Msgr. Simon Tellis. Then the Christmas message was presented by groups from several parishes, schools and religious congregations through skits, caroling, and the distribution of charitable gifts.
Fr. Dias said the skits helped make the Biblical narrative more easily accessible and understandable to those of other religions.
The celebration was held on Tagore Beach, Karwar's waterfront where locals often co congregate to walk along the coast of the Arabian Sea, a region of the Indian Ocean. Karwar is located in Karnataka state, and is a port city on the Arabian sea.
The Diocese of Karwar serves nearly 54,000 faithful, who comprise nearly four percent of the total population of 1.4 million.