December 17, 2023, Mumbai
In a remarkable display of religious harmony and intellectual discourse, the Annual Christmas Archdiocesan Inter-religious Celebration brought together individuals of diverse faiths at the Holy Name High School hall on December 17, 2023. Hosted by His Eminence, Oswald Cardinal Gracias, the event witnessed a congregation of individuals representing a spectrum of beliefs, including Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians embodying the rich tapestry of India's spiritual diversity.
His Eminence, Oswald Cardinal Gracias, set the tone for the evening with a warm welcome, personally greeting attendees. The festivities commenced with the Unveiling of Baby Jesus in the Crib by Cardinal Gracias, followed by soul-stirring Christmas Carols led by the choir of St. Michael Parish. The students of Gloria Convent Byculla then captivated the audience with a delightful Christmas skit, re-enacting the timeless Story of Christmas.
A pivotal moment of intellectual exchange unfolded in the form of a Panel Discussion featuring distinguished representatives from various faiths. The theme, "CHRISTMAS: GOD'S MESSAGE TO GIVE PEACE A CHANCE," prompted insightful reflections from a diverse panel. Participants included Fr. (Prof.) Peter Gonsalves SDB, Swami Dayadhipananda, Dr. Zahir L. Kazi, Brahma Kumari Anjali, Dr. Surinder Kaur, Ven. Bhadant Rahul Bodhi Mahathero, Swami Devendra Brahmachari, and Noshir Dadrawala. Each speaker eloquently emphasized their respective religious traditions' call for peace and reconciliation, emphasizing unity in the face of contemporary religious hostilities fueled by political considerations.
Mr. Adrian Rosario skilfully anchored the program, guiding the audience through the profound insights shared by the diverse panel. The speakers collectively urged religious leaders to focus on shared values, becoming agents of peace and reconciliation amid times of heightened religious tensions.
The program concluded with a powerful message from His Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias. In his Christmas message, he reflected on the humility of God as manifested in the form of baby Jesus. In the image of the babe of Bethlem, we see the smallness of God. The angels point out to the shepherds a baby born in a manger. Not a sign of power, self-sufficiency, or pride. No. The eternal God is reduced to a helpless, meek, humble human being. God lowered himself so that we could walk with him and so that he could stand beside us, not above and far from us. Through his life and mission, Jesus invites the human family to walk in faith as children of God, united in the pursuit of peace.
The evening it was concluded with the soulful rendition of Carols and a heart-warming Christmas message of peace by the students of Gloria Convent High School, Byculla. The celebration left a lasting impression, embodying the true spirit of Christmas and fostering a sense of unity among the diverse attendees. It was an evening to remember, marking the beginning of the Christmas season with a profound message of peace and goodwill.