Golden Jubilee celebration of the Diocese of Kohima began with much fervour at the Mary Help of Christians Cathedral Church here on Saturday. The celebrations began with the unveiling of the jubilee plaque followed by the Holy Eucharistic celebration. Archbishop Emeritus of Imphal, Most Rev. Dominic Lumon DD, was the main celebrant of the Holy Mass. The cultural night was graced by Nagaland governor La Ganesan as the special guest and chief minister Neiphiu Rio as the guest of honour.
Addressing the congregation, Bishop of Kohima, Most Rev Dr James Thoppil said the Catholic Church, Diocese of Kohima, though late to arrive in Nagaland, was reckoned today as a vital force that touches, influences and shapes the lives of thousands in Nagaland.
The Bishop said that the Church has contributed much on the religious, social, cultural, educational, medical and economic life of the people, becoming a key player and catalyst in the overall development of the state.
He also acknowledged that prior to the arrival of the Catholic Church, the American Baptist Church’s glorious history, work and influence over one hundred years had great consequences for the people of Nagaland.
“In fact, Christianity gave a new identity, unity, a new relationship and vision of life to the people of Nagaland and to the entire Northeast India. The late entry of the Catholic Church only helped to fulfil the aspirations of the people more realistically,” Thoppil said.
He reiterated that an important contribution of the Church has been its role in the preservation and promotion of local culture and tradition and that the Cathedral had become a landmark of Kohima.
“It is an attempt to integrate and blend the Naga cultural element with Christian faith and symbols. I hope that one day it will become a national pilgrim centre, where universality of the Church is proclaimed and lived,” he added.
In his address, governor, La Ganesan, while extending jubilee greetings, said the half-century milestone reflected a testament of devotion, resilience and tireless efforts of numerous individuals who were the backbone of the diocese.
He pointed out that Kohima Diocese occupied a unique and a significant place in the story of Nagaland. Ganesan said that the coming of the Catholic Church to Nagaland has had a huge positive impact on the state and its contributions extend far beyond mere spirituality, reaching into the very fabric of the society.
With a strong commitment to educational upliftment, cultural development, social enrichment and economic enhancement, governor said the Diocese had, over the years, served as a beacon of hope and an anchor of stability in the Naga community.
He said one of the noted achievements of the church was encouraging the people to give up conflicts and leading them to national integration.
Ganesan observed that catholic population in the state was about 63,000 with 109 Diocesan priests, 100 religious priests and 493 religious nuns, sisters and was also running 106 schools including 28 higher secondary schools, six colleges, one university, one teacher’s training institute, four vocational training centres, one media and publication centre, one rehab centre for alcoholics and substance abusers, one rehab centre for differently abled, two children’s Home, one Mother Teresa Home for the homeless, one Home for the affected and infected HIV, one health centre, two dispensaries, three social work centres, two retreat centres and one Palliative Care Centre.
He pointed out that these were laudable and substantial contribution that the organization was making towards enhancing the socio-economic advancement of the state.
He acknowledged the conviction and sacrifices from the Kohima Diocese to uplift the living condition and improve the lives of the less fortunate here in Nagaland.
In his address, state chief minister Neiphiu Rio said that since the inception of Kohima Diocese in 1973, the Catholic Church had become a vital force that touches, influences and shapes the lives of many Nagas through its various Church activities, as well as through its many other institutions, such as schools, colleges and universities in Nagaland.
He said the advent and acceptance of Christianity in Nagaland was a turning point in the life of Nagas as it had taken the Naga society to a new era of spiritual and material growth, progress and identity. At the same time, he said it also played a great role in shaping of moral standards and social cohesion of the Naga society through its catholic faith, and through its other social, cultural and developmental activities.
As the Diocese of Kohima celebrates its golden jubilee, Rio said the state government gratefully acknowledged the services rendered by the Catholic Church to the people of Nagaland.
He pointed out that the strong belief and efforts of the Catholic Church for brotherhood, unity, and common good for all human beings were indeed noble goals and should be upheld and practiced by all.
Acknowledging the presence of Catholic Church’s many mission centres and schools in Nagaland, some of them located in the remotest and most difficult areas of the State, the chief minister urged the authority of the Catholic Church to make those institutions into “centres of excellence” in imparting knowledge and spiritual values.
“During this auspicious occasion, let us also re-examine our relationships, write-off whatever is useless, or burdening us in our relationships, so that we can move together forward in the service of mankind,” Rio said.
Bishop of Agartala, Most Rev Lumen Monteiro DD, shared the homily during the morning service.
The holy eucharist was followed by Marian procession where thousands marched in prayer.
The morning service was led by director, pastoral centre & NCYM, Rev Fr George Vekupa, while welcome note was delivered by parish priest, Rev Fr Vemedo Joseph Kezo. The cultural night was led by Ruopfüzhano Rosemary Whiso and Keleseho Stephen Tsükrü.
Dignitaries who spoke included papal representative, Monseigneur Juan Pablo Cerillos Hernandez, US consul general Kolkata, Melinda M. Pavek and auxiliary bishop, Münster, Germany, Most Rev Dr Stefan Zekorn.
Dignitaries present during the event were minister for PWD (R&B) G. Kaito Aye, advisor for NRE & NSDMA, Z Nyusietho Nyuthe and chief secretary, J Alam.