Tuesday, December 25, 2007

God wants to be with us in our needs, Church leaders tell nation

“God wants to be with us in our needs” is the key message of Christmas, say Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Alan Harper of Armagh.

In a joint Christmas message for RTÉ, Dr Brady's first since being made a Cardinal last month, the two leaders of the Catholic Church in Ireland and the Church of Ireland acknowledge that Christmas can be a difficult time for many.

“The loss of someone we love, financial set backs, strained relationships, ill health, loneliness, these can all leave us feeling isolated or out of sorts with the celebrations at this time of the year,” they acknowledge.

However, they add that, by being born as a man, God “ entered into all our anxieties and suffering”. This act was intended to help us to find “new heart and new hope in the experience of love”.

They add that, while peace and prosperity continue to progress in Ireland, challenges remain. Alcohol and drug abuse remain serious concerns, the two prelates say. Such substance abuse, they warn “offer a false hope and a false escape from the pressures of life”.

Increasing stress on families caused by financial pressures is another topic about which the two Church leaders express concern. They refer also to “the ongoing challenge of poverty”.

“It is shocking to think that 51 homeless people in Belfast and Dublin have died over the last eighteen months,” Archbishop Harper and Cardinal Brady reflect. “What does this say about our priorities as a society of unprecedented wealth?”

However, the fundamental truth about Christmas is that God is with us, they insist. “We do not face today or the future on our own. The child of Bethlehem was victorious even over death,” they continue.

“Christmas speaks to us of love. Love of God for us. God is love and God so loved the world that he sent his only Son. The new born baby speaks to us of the self-giving of God, the self-emptying of God to become one of us.”

Christmas reminds us that the love of God prevailed, “just as the goodness and hope that is within each of us can prevail with the help of God. This is the truth we celebrate today. It is why we celebrate with confidence and with joy”.

The message ends with a Christmas blessing for the Polish community in Ireland, wishing them a happy and peaceful Christmas, and thanking them for their “ongoing support for the Church in Ireland” and their “contribution to Irish society”.
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