Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik visited the St. Vincent’s pro-Cathedral in Bhubaneswar Dec. 22 at a function and assured security to Christian community while offering them his Christmas wishes.
He was chief guest at a Christmas gathering in the premises of the Catholic Church. Several state legislators, leaders from other Christian denominations and some 1500 Catholics and scores of priests and nuns attended the programs.
Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttuck-Bhubaneshwar organized the program, first such event in the state, which witnessed Indian history’s fiercest anti-Christian violence some eight years ago when fanatic Hindus attacked Christians killing some 100 people.
However, Patniak said “Odisha is well aware of the Christian presence and concerned about the safety and security of every Christian,” as he wished the community on the occasion of Christmas.
His Christmas message stressed that Christmas “is a gift of love, gift of peace and gift of happiness, Christmas is a time to be happy and make others to be happy. It is a time of contemplation, peace, joy and harmony.”
He said people lived “socially and culturally harmonious” in the state, which is “traditionally known” for mutual cooperation of al sections of people.
Patnaik, state chief minster for a fourth time, cut a Christmas cake wishing the Christian community and all the in the state the joys of Christmas and the New Year.
Archbishop Barwa’s message also stressed the peace aspect of Christmas. “Christmas is the festival of light. Through the incarnation, God took human form to dispel darkness of sin and damnation. Christmas is also the festival of hope as a Saviour was born to liberate entire humanity from fear and anxiety about after-life,” the archbishop said.
“Christmas also is the festival of peace as Jesus Christ the prince of peace was born to bring peace in our hearts, if we too become like little children, innocent and humble,” Archbishop Barwa said.
Patnaik also acknowledged the “selfless services” of Christians like St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata. In September, when the nun was named a saint he had named a city flyover after her at the request of regional bishops’ council.
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