Africa, Dec 27: It was an honor and great pleasure for St Joseph Parish in Monrovia, Liberia to have the Papal Nuncio, His Excellency George Antonysamy as the chief celebrant for the Mass of the Nativity, on Christmas Eve which was concelebrated by three other priests.
The joyful occasion began with melodious singing of Christmas Carols led by the members of St Agnes choir group and an enactment of the nativity play by the children.
In his homily, His Excellency gave a poignant message that will always ring in the hearts of the faithful gathered. That is, one can and one must look beyond oneself and the usual community to truly find Jesus in the most unlikely places and in the most distasteful people: the sick and the suffering, the poor, the distressed, the homeless, the disadvantaged.
Recalling the famous lines of Alexander Pope: “What do I profit if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world during this Christmas but is not born in my heart?”, he told the faithful to allow Jesus to be reborn in our lives during this Christmas and the New Year by cultivating the spirit of sacrifice and humility.
After the eucharistic celebration, the parish priest, Fr Lionel Xavier, on behalf of the Parishioners, thanked His Excellency for his pastoral concerns over the last seven years as the representative of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI accredited not only to Liberia but to 3 other regional countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone, Gambia.
He was also congratulated on his appointment as the new Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Mylapore-Madras, India, where the tomb of St Thomas the Apostle is located, and was then presented with a souvenir of Liberia.
Fr Lionel recalled how much the parish has benefitted not only from His Excellency’s spiritual guidance and inspirations but also from his direct efforts to obtain assistance from the Vatican for the completion of the first stage of the construction of the new Church, without which it would not have been possible for the parishioners to celebrate the climax of jubilee year celebrations in that structure. The parish council and the parishioners also thanked His Excellency and wished him God’s blessings for success in his new assignment.
In response, His Excellency thanked the parish priest and the parishioners for their kind support and cooperation during his tenure of office.
Fr Gabriel, secretary to the Papal Nuncio, Fr Sony Pottenplackal, acting principal of Don Bosco Technical High School and many others from various religious congregations were present on the occasion.