Christmas was celebrated with religious fervour and gaiety across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh today, with churches of all denominations being beautifully decorated for the occasion.
The festivities began with midnight mass at many churches in Secunderabad, which has a sizeable population of Christians.
A major congregation was held at 200-year-old St John's Church in Secunderabad. Hundreds of Christians also attended St Mary's Church, All Saint's Church, Wesley Church, Holy Trinity Church and Millennium Methodist Church. Priests prayed for peace and highlighted the message of Jesus' birth. The Anglo-Indian community at Lalaguda in Secunderabad celebrated Christmas with enthusiasm and in a traditional manner.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao participated in the Christmas celebrations at historic Methodist Church at Abids. Rajya Sabha MP K Keshava Rao and Nizamabad MP K Kavitha also participated in the celebrations.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu took part in the celebrations at party headquarters NTR Trust Bhavan and cut the Christmas cake.
The largest gathering in the State was reported Medak Cathedral, Telangana's biggest church, where the faithful attended the early morning Mass. Hundreds of people from the Telangana region attended the prayers at the CSI Church.
Major congregations in the city were held at St John's Church, St Mary's Church, All Saint's Church and Millennium Methodist Church in Secunderabad. Christians thronged the churches right from the morning. Carols were sung, many greetings were exchanged, and the mood was joyous all over.
Special prayers were also offered at the Centenary Baptist Church in Hanamkonda, Fathima Church in Kazipet and Roman Catholic churches at Subedari and Kazipet. Special prayers were also conducted at Rockwood Church, Gipson Church, ABM, Holy Faith and Cole's Centennial Church in Kurnool district. Large number of Christians offered prayers in St Paul's Church and Loyala Church in Vijayawada. Christmas was celebrated with fervour in other districts of both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh States.
Close on the heels of the Telangana State government's announcement that a Christian building will be constructed in Hyderabad, the Andhra Pradesh government too has decided to follow it up with construction of a building for Christians in Guntur.
Chandrababu Naidu, who participated in the State government-sponsored Christmas celebrations for the first time after bifurcation, announced that the government would build a Bhavan for the Christians. He directed the Guntur district Collector Kantilal Dande to set the process in motion. The Bhavan would be built at an estimated cost of Rs 10 crore. The Christian groups headed by the Bishop of Catholic Church, Dr Gali Bali, thanked the Chief Minister for the gesture.
The Chief Minister also announced allocation of Rs 10 crore for the Christian Minorities Finance Corporation in the State. He further said the government would extend all welfare schemes of the Scheduled Castes to the Dalit Christians. On an appeal by Christian groups, the Chief Minister directed the officials to ensure that they were allotted lands for graveyards in every village wherever lands were available.
Ministers Ravela Kishore Babu, Palle Raghunadha Reddy, Prathipati Pulla Rao and Siddha Raghava Rao, Assembly Speaker Kodela Sivaprasada Rao, local MP Galla Jayadev, MLC Ilapuram Venkaiah, Guntur district Collector Kantilal Dande and others were present.