Welcome Speech of Most Rev. Filipe Neri Ferrão at the Annual Civic Reception on the occasion of Christmas (Archbishop’s House, Panjim, 28.12.2017)Our Dear and Honoured Guests:
Smt. Mridula Sinha, Hon’ble Governor of Goa and Dr. R. K. Sinha, Shri Manohar Parrikar, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Goa, Hon’ble Ministers and Members of the Legislative Assemby, Hon’ble Members of the Judiciary, Respected Members of the Central and State Administration, Hon’ble Defence Personnel, Respected Consular Authorities, Esteemed Members of the print and electronic media, Reverend Colleagues in Church leadership and esteemed Lay collaborators, Major Superiors of Religious Congregations, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure and genuine delight that I welcome you all to this evening of friendship here at Archbishop’s House, in this festive season of Christmas, a season that calls for the sharing of goodwill, of friendship, of mutual concern, of peace. Thank you very much for accepting our invitation!
Christmas, as is known to everybody, is a celebration of joy, peace and harmony. The glad tidings of the birth of Jesus Christ bring a new kind of energy to humanity and an enthusiasm for peace, which often causes countries engaged in long-standing wars to call for a truce during the celebration of Christmas. We all stand in need of this kind of peace, which money cannot buy. It is a peace that every human heart longs for. It brings healing to families, communities and nations fraught with discord. It is Christmas Peace, the peace that the angels announced to the shepherds on the night of the birth of Jesus. It is not the peace that the world gives. It is God’s peace!
For this reason, Christmas becomes, in a very real way, a celebration to welcome the entire humanity into God’s family. It is a celebration of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, a famous shloka found in the Maha Upanishad and which has been thoughtfully engraved in the Entrance Hall of our Indian Parliament. It is perhaps fitting that we read out this great ancient text on an occasion like this. In its English translation it goes like this:
“Only the small minds discriminate, saying: ‘This is my relative; the other is a stranger. For those who live magnanimously, the entire world is but one family’ ” (Unquote).
We are glad to note that our respected Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, opened his historic address at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2014 with a tribute to India’s ancient traditions, telling a packed Assembly Hall that India’s philosophy which has guided us since Vedic times, is that of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, in other words, that we in India believe that we live as one family, under God.
The gift of peace that we celebrate at Christmas highlights this sense of being one family under God and encompasses not only human persons but the whole of creation. When the angels announced the birth of the Divine Child in Bethlehem, they sang, “Glory to God …. and Peace on Earth.” We live in India, in a civilization that has always chanted and continues to chant OM SHANTI, acknowledging our connection with all other living beings and with the rest of creation.
The gift of divine peace that we celebrate at Christmas becomes a task for all of us to make peace, harmony and genuine freedom come true in the life of every citizen in our country and thus bring to fulfilment the deepest aspirations of the heart of every Indian. We believe that Christmas is the time to intensify this culture of peace – peace with humanity and peace with creation — that is embedded in the ethos of our country.
Goa is a land of peace and harmony. The natural beauty of our land brings serenity and peace to everyone and keeps attracting to this State so many thousands of tourists every year! We may say that the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam shloka is profoundly engraved in the land, the people and the culture that we have collectively helped shape up in this small State down the ages. We in Goa are essentially a people of peace. There is an inherent peaceful co-existence among members of different communities and a natural spirit of caring and sharing among neighbours, without consideration of caste or creed. In this context, the feast of Christmas comes to remind us, people of Goa, that peace and harmony are some of the greatest gifts that we have been endowed with and that we need to share them with others. Christmas makes us adopt an attitude of caring for all, particularly those who need us most. It makes us want to embrace people of other communities as our own, because we see them increasingly as part of a global family having God as its origin and father. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam!
Peace for the entire human family is both a process and a goal. It is at once an ongoing work, in which we all must participate and collaborate, and a final point at which we hope to arrive. Peacemaking is the mission of the Church, which continues the mission of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. The question I would like all of us to ask ourselves today is: ‘How can we work together, in this tiny State of Goa, to bring about a society of peace, built up on justice, with love as its crown and freedom as its environment?’
All of us here are people with a heavy social responsibility on our shoulders: the Government, to begin with, the public authorities and the Church. The people look up to us for orientation, guidance and good governance. And we owe it to the people. They must know that we mean what we say when we tell them that we are with them and for them. Can we create such a space of trust and truthfulness, beginning right here? I invite you, the Government and the public authorities and ourselves, the Church, to outdo each other, in the healthiest of spirits, in the achievement of this goal!
I shall end with the assurance that we have given consistently on this meaningful occasion along these years, namely, that the Church in Goa will be only too glad to offer her collaboration in the building of a supportive society that sincerely and genuinely promotes peace and harmony in our land.
Once again, I wholeheartedly thank all of you for accepting our invitation and making time to be with us this evening. We wish and pray that God Almighty may give you and your families a New Year filled with His choicest blessings and inspire us all to serve our people with greater dedication and good will, so that we can promote an environment that is truly conducive to abiding peace and harmony. A very Happy, Peaceful and Grace-filled New Year of 2018 to you all!