“There was so much happiness in people. After so many months without the sacraments and prayers in churches, they were able to come, visibly happy with great participation”.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – “Christmas was wonderful. Emmanuel-God with us, God came to dwell with the little people of Kandhamal, Jesus was born for us,” said Father Prados (picture 2), pastor of Our Lady of Charity Catholic Church, in Raikia, a town in Kandhamal district (Odisha), speaking to AsiaNews.
“The celebration of Christmas in Riakia was impressive. Despite COVID and government rules, people participated devoutly and joyfully in the liturgy on Christmas Day,” he added.
“The government had announced that only ‘a limited number of people’ – 50 people in large churches, and 20 in the small ones – could attend Mass on Christmas Day. So we increased the number of Masses, and people came, dressed in their traditional festive clothes, with masks, observing all the rules and keeping social distance.
“In our mission sub-stations, which are located in inland rural areas, we held five-six Masses and more people were able to attend, as social distance was easily observed.
“There was so much happiness in people. After so many months without the sacraments and prayers in churches, they were able to come, visibly happy with great participation,” Fr Prados explained.
“The birth of Jesus announced a new beginning for the people in Kandhamal, no COVID, nor any anti-Christian persecution could dampen people’s spirits.
“They came to worship and praise the new born Saviour of the world, the Prince of Peace, the ONLY one who can save them and protect them. The faith of our people in Kandhamal is growing and this was witnessed on Christmas Day.”
Father Purshottam Nayak celebrated two Masses at a mission substation in Raikia, in one of the villages at the centre of anti-Christian persecution in 2008.
“In Tiangia, where there was some of the worst anti-Christian violence, survivors, young and old all came for Mass,” he told AsiaNews.
“They were all so happy. You can’t explain people’s happiness; they smiled, sang, happy to attend Mass after so many months. The mood of the people was jubilant. They waited impatiently on Christmas Day”
In Tiangia stands a monument, named Pillars of testimony, bearing the names of the seven martyrs of the violence in Kandhamal in 2008, the worst ever against India’s Christian minority.
The seven martyrs, all from Tiangia, are: Father Bernard Digal (died 28 October 2008), Trinath Digal (25 August 2008), Bikram Nayak (25 August 2008), Parikhit Nayak (27 August 2008), Darasantha Pradhan (25 August 2008), Dibyasing Digal (25 August 2008), and Dinabandhu Pradhan (27 August 2008).