Ireland: joint message from Catholic and Protestant Bishops of Clogher

 Christmas presents us with a wide range of pictures to warm our hearts and charm our memories. The strong and enduring image remains that of the mother and child, the Holy Family, set in the hastily improvised circumstances of a stable with ox and ass still in residence. Others are there too, different people: local shepherds and distant Wise Men. In the background, we hear the cry of justice, the fulfilment of promise ringing through from Mary's Magnificat : My soul tells out the greatness of the Lord. The world and its concerns are part of this small family of God and God wants this world to be there in all its complexity. The name, after all, of this child is Salvation. The Christ-child is also the light moving out into the darkness. He is challenging and being challenged all the time. Religious and secular powers in the person of Herod and his advisors cloud the horizon. The mother's heart is seared by an anxiety about what the future holds for her magnificent child. Joseph will soon insist that they flee from this Christmas card scene. Love becomes rugged in showing its concern. Trust in a future yet unknown dictates the course of family affection. We are all too familiar with the things which wreck family lives. Child abuse takes many forms. Drugs drag down many in its train. Children are forced to make adult decisions with little or no guidance. Who can forget the recent photograph of a young man leaving court, defying the authority of society itself ? The year 2004 takes us into The International Year of the Family. Ours is a world where domestic happiness is harder and harder to achieve. The family and the home have a vital part to play. The rejoicing over newborn life with all its potential for goodness can still inspire the working of love throughout the family of God and the family of the world. +Joseph Duffy +Michael Jackson Catholic Bishop of Clogher and Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher

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