12/27/2011, 00.00
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Churches overflow this year in the largest Christmas celebrations in Nepal’s history

by Kalpit Parajuli
More than 2,000 people, including hundreds of non-Christians, attend Mass in Kathmandu’s Assumption Cathedral. For the first time, the service was held with open doors despite the danger of attacks.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – This year’s Christmas celebrations were the largest in the country’s history, Christian leaders said. Thousands of non-Christians attended Mass in the country’s Catholic and Protestant churches.

A crowd of more than 2,000 people came to Mass at Assumption Cathedral in Lalitpur District, Mgr Anthony Sharma, bishop of Kathmandu, said. The building was the target of a terrorist attack some time ago.

Although the building can only hold up to 1,000 people, many followed the service outside, the prelate said. Security guards were forced to keep the doors open; they had been kept closed in recent years because of the danger of attacks.

“We should all look up to Heaven and follow Him who sacrificed His life for humanity,” the prelate said in his sermon, which he delivered to hundreds of non-Christians. In his address, he also encouraged members of various confessions to work for peace.

Thousands of people also attended the Mass organised by Kathmandu’s Protestant community. Narayan Sharma, bishop of the Protestant Gyaneshwor Church, said the building was overflowing with worshippers. Christmas Eve events also saw large participation in central Kathmandu.

Since the fall of the Hindu monarchy in 2006, the government has decided to boost tourism by making Christmas a national holiday. Greater security has allowed Christians to celebrate Mass in public and display their sacred images and decorations outside of churches, stores and homes.

The country’s Catholic community now stands at 10,000, up from 6,000 in 2006, when state and religion were formally separated in Nepal.

In order to entertain tourists who came to Kathmandu for Christmas, local authorities organised non-religious events, such as Christmas concerts, gifts for children, songs and dances.

Nishant Shrestha, marketing chief in one of the capital’s main commercial malls, said he was surprised by the way Hindus celebrated Christmas.

“This is sign that Christians are rapidly growing in the country,” he noted. “It is nice to see people share the values of peace and harmony, which are the symbols of the Christian celebration.”
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