Thursday, December 28, 2006

Goa Christmas Celebrated Amidst Tight Security

Reported Terrorist Threat Fails To Dampen Christmas Vigil Celebrations In Goa

By Bosco de Sousa Eremita

December 28, 2006

PANAJI, India (UCAN) -- Catholics in the western Indian coastal state of Goa celebrated Christmas with traditional devotion and pomp, but amid unprecedented security.

On Dec. 14, Israel issued a terrorism alert, warning of a planned Al Qaeda attack on tourists in Goa during the Christmas and New Year holidays, the peak of the tourist season in the former Portuguese colony. The advisory, issued to Israelis visiting Goa, said information pointed to "a concrete threat." The next day, the issue was raised in the Indian parliament.

Every year some 2.1 million tourists visit Goa. About 60 percent are Britons, Germans and Swedes. An estimated 2,500 Israelis also come each year, the state being a popular stop on their post-military-service tour circuit.

On Dec. 22, Goa Police Director General B.S. Brar told media the administration would deploy additional security forces and hold regular coordination meetings with police officials from neighboring states. Goa, whose capital, Panaji, is 1,910 kilometers southwest of New Delhi, shares borders with Karnataka and Maharashtra.

As Christmas neared, police focused on verification and surveillance of former convicts, rowdies, suspected extremists and recent arrivals to the state. They also met with Church authorities, alerting them of tightened security around churches, especially during Christmas Eve midnight Masses.

Despite the heightened concern, all the state's churches reported that midnight Masses were held without incident. The most popular venue, Don Bosco High School in Panaji, had a record number of visitors.

Journalist Alexandre Barbosa, a Catholic who attended the midnight Mass on the school grounds, said people came as early as 11 p.m. because of the security threat. He found it "odd to see gun-toting security personnel occupying vantage positions."

Nonetheless, Salesian Father Romulo Noronha, main organizer of the ceremony, told UCA News on Dec. 25 that the turnout of 3,000 people was the biggest in recent years. "Night-goers preferred to come here," he said, pointing out that other churches held Mass indoors.

Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, also in Panaji, moved its midnight Mass indoors after police asked church officials to request that parishioners not bring bags and said they wanted to install metal detectors at all entry points. Since the church complex has several entry points, explained Father Antimo Gomes, the parish priest, it was easier to hold the Mass indoors and install the metal detectors only at the church doors.

Police visited Our Lady of Hope, in the coastal area of Candolim, thrice before the midnight Mass, reported Father Jesus Rodrigues, the assistant parish priest. The police permitted one entry point and one parking lot, he told UCA News, adding that priests appealed to the parishioners not to confront police, lest it "unnecessarily" lead to "a law-and-order problem."

According to the parish priest, Father George Aguiar, the service went "more smoothly than ever," because the parking was handled more efficiently.

Filipe Dias, who organized the preparations for Christmas services at St. Alex Church in Calangute, a popular Goan beachfront area, told UCA News the terrorist threat did not dampen the Christmas spirit there.

"We had fewer chairs, expecting a smaller crowd because of the security restrictions, but the church courtyard was brimming, with people standing," Dias said, adding that the midnight celebration went on "without a hitch."

Meanwhile, in a Christmas message, Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao of Goa and Daman urged laity to use the occasion to spread the message of peace and to work for genuine human development.

Reproduced by Konkani Catholics with permission from UCAN (

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Mangalore Bishop's Christmas Message - 2006

Video Christmas Message by Most Rev. Aloysius Paul D'Souza, Bishop of Mangalore

Monday, December 25, 2006

Goa Archbishop's Christmas Message - 2006

Christmas Message from Filipe Neri Ferrao, Archbishop of Goa and Daman

The following is the full text of the Christmas Message of Most Rev. Philip Neri Ferrao, Archbishop of Goa and Daman, released by the Diocesan Centre for Social Communications, Goa:


Christmas is a feast of joy, a joy that is today celebrated in various and many forms, ranging from the deeply spiritual to the purely secular. Whatever today's commercial concerns and the media may have made of Christmas, this Feast will always stand for an eminently spiritual reality: God intervening in the history of humankind, being born in a human family and blessing every member of the human race with His Love, Peace and Joy. This reality imposes on us, as human beings, the duty to work for the genuine development of the human person and for the wholesome transformation in our society.

Our Goan society is beset with various problems: greed to make quick money, corruption in almost every sphere of life, unemployment of the youth, a continuous political instability, inter-religious mistrust, destruction of ecology, framing of laws that help destroy land, etc. Such conditions degenerate our people and our place, gradually.

May this Christmas strengthen our resolve to help in the realization of God's dream when he took birth in the cave of Bethlehem: a new world order, wherein people of all hues and colours can join hands with one another and carry on working in a collaborative spirit to re-create the earth into a place where justice, peace, understanding and forgiveness will be the hallmark. Then, every day will be Christmas!

I take this occasion to wish everyone a joyful Christmas, full of divine blessings and peace that only God can give.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bombay Archbishop's Christmas Message - 2006

Christmas Message from Oswald Gracias , Archbishop of Bombay

The newly installed Archbishop of Bombay, Archbishop Oswald Gracias in his message has wished the faithful a "grace-filled Christmas and the Peace, Joy and Love of Our Loving Saviour all through the coming year."


On the occasion of the Feast of the Nativity of Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, together with my Auxiliary Bishops, I wish the Priests, Religious and Lay Faithful of our Archdiocese a grace-filled Christmas and the Peace, Joy and Love of Our Loving Saviour all through the coming year. I wish to specially greet the aged, the sick and the lonely.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus we reflect on the mystery that God took human nature in Jesus of Nazareth to reconcile the world to Himself. The Christmas message thus becomes very much a message about reconciliation and human relationships. The creeping divide because of casteism in our society is one of the biggest blots on our national life today. The widening gap between the rich and the poor, the communal divide, a spirit of intolerance, the reign of terror unleashed by militant groups every now and then in our own country, and often in our own city, are symptoms of forces at work that seek the disintegration of a nation wishing to live in peace, harmony and unity. These are challenges to the very core values of this nation and indeed of our Christian heritage. We urgently need a national programme to combat these divisive forces. This is surely an area where there could be much greater cooperation between the Church, civil society and the State.

But how can we ourselves make a real difference through the experience of the gift of Christmas? How can this precious gift we receive, Jesus the Christ, truly change human relationships?

-Christmas can make a difference if we begin to notice and really see those who should be close to us but whom we keep at a distance because of something that happened long ago.

-Christmas can make a difference if we begin to notice and really see those who are longing to be noticed and valued by us but whom we choose to ignore.

-Christmas can make a difference if we begin to notice and really see those whom everybody else takes for granted and ignores, and whom we ourselves sometimes passed by as too insignificant.

-Christmas can make a difference if we begin to notice and really see those who are hurting and freezing in the cold of the outside and whom we are challenged to welcome into the warmth of our own circle.

-Christmas can make a difference if we begin to notice and really see those of other cultures and other beliefs living in our midst and learn sincerely to appreciate them.

-Christmas can make a difference if we begin to notice and really see Jesus calling us to a deeper relationship of love and trust with Him and with each of our brothers and sisters, especially the least and the most neglected.

-Christmas can make a difference if we pause and look at our own lives and examine whether we have allowed God's gift to take hold of us and change us.

May the gift of the Infant Jesus at Christmas enable us to bring tidings of joy, peace and love to the world through this season and through the coming year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Special Retreats - Divine Retreat Centre - 2007

Special English Retreats - 2006

Divine Retreat Centre, Muringoor, Kerala

Given below is the information on the forthcoming Special Retreats in 2006 - 2007 (in English)

December 3-8: Retreat For Couples

December 10-15: Inner Healing Retreat

December 17-22: Retreat for Couples

December 31, 2006 - January 5, 2007: Inner Healing retreat

January 7-12: Couples retreat

January 14-19: Inner healing retreat

January 21-26: Couples retreat

January 28 - Febuary 2: Inner Healing retreat

Febuary 4-9: Couples retreat

Febuary 11-16: Couples retreat

Febuary 18-23: Inner Healing retreat

Febuary 25 - March 2: Couples retreat

March 4 - 9: Inner healing retreat

April 1 - 6: Passover retreat

Also note:
  • There will be special prayers and sessions for childless couples during this week (December 17 - 22)
  • During the Retreat for the Sick, special accommodation will be provided for bed-ridden patients on prior information. Medical facilities will also be available with Ambulance service upon request to transport the sick & disabled from Divine Nagar Railway Halt to the Retreat Centre.
  • Retreats for children and Bible Nursery for tiny-tots will held as usual every week.
  • Our usual weekly Retreat starts on every Sunday at 10 a.m. & ends on Friday by 2 p.m.*
*The usual weekly retreats will be held during the other weeks not mentioned here.