Car and truck owners get into the festive spirit in Bhopal on Dec. 15, 2018. (Photo supplied)
An archdiocese in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand has urged the faithful to keep Christmas a low-key affair in view of people facing hardship due to Covid-19.
The Advent and pastoral letter of Ranchi Archdiocese appealed to people “to celebrate a Christmas inspired by charity and founded on deep spirituality. We call upon you to join us for a celebration marked by charity, mercy and compassion.”
“This year has been a difficult year marked by challenges, difficulties and suffering. Covid-19 and the enforced lockdowns have brought untold misery and hardships for the common man. An economy in distress, growing joblessness and increasing poverty stare in our face as winter sets in,” said the letter dated Nov. 21 signed by Archbishop Felix Toppo of Ranchi and Auxiliary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas.
“As we look towards Christmas, the celebration of the birth of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ, and the preparatory Advent season, we call upon our priests, seminarians and our faithful to a moment of reflection and introspection. The child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger is indeed a sign for this Christmas which will be celebrated under the shadow of Covid-19.”
The letter also reminded the faithful that “during the lockdown you stretched out your hands and became angels of mercy, to the poor, the hungry, the afflicted and the weary migrants returning home in miserable conditions. Through your efforts, the Catholic Church in Ranchi was in the forefront of relief services bringing hope, consolation and comfort to thousands of people and their families.”
The prelates of Ranchi Archdiocese proposed four steps for a sacred and meaningful Christmas this year.
Firstly, it should be a spiritual Christmas. The faithful need to frequent the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist during this season but at the same time in view of the threat of infection from Covid, they are requested to strictly maintain the standard operating procedures stipulated by the authorities.
Secondly, it urged a community Christmas. It said that while Covid restrictions and precautions may make it difficult to organize social gatherings, it suggested a social reaching out by arranging for sweets and small presents for families and children who cannot afford them.
Thirdly, it should be an ecological Christmas: “In view of protection of environment, and as a measure against air and sound pollution, we strongly request you not to use firecrackers during this festive season.”
Lastly, a Christmas in favor of the poor. The letter called for sobriety and modesty in celebrations and expenditure. “We recommend that each family and religious community make sacrifices, especially during the season of Advent and contribute to charity so that we can help those who were already living in poverty and those who have now been reduced to poverty because of Covid and the lockdowns.”
According to the health department, Jharkhand has recorded 107,469 coronavirus cases as of Nov. 23 as 185 more people tested positive.
Two more persons succumbed to the infection in the previous 24 hours, pushing the death toll in the state to 951. Ranchi district reported the highest number of new cases at 74, followed by East Singhbhum with 25 and Dhanbad with 17.
Jharkhand has a relatively strong Christian community, mostly tribal people, comprising 4.3 percent of the population, almost double the national figure.