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Scottish Catholics to reclaim Christmas next year

The Catholic Church in Scotland will mount a national campaign urging the country's local councils to remember the Christian message in their festive celebrations for 2004.

Local authorities will be asked to include the word "Christmas" on their greetings cards and they are being encouraged to include a nativity scene in local shopping center.

The Church is planning to write to every council before they plan next year's Christmas celebrations.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien has called on Scots to resist the rising tide of "secularization," with a particular reference to the celebration of Christmas.

He recently congratulated those councils which had created nativity scenes and invited "each and every council and community in Scotland to consider doing likewise."

He continued, "Aware of the ways in which considerable sums of money are spent on Christmas displays, I think it only appropriate that there be a nativity scene at the center of the celebrations of each of our communities. Without this there is left a gaping hole at the heart of the season of goodwill."

The Scottish Parliament published a controversial card for 2003 which omitted the English word "Christmas" but included the Gaelic phrase for "Merry Christmas."

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland told BBC News that this kind of "mixed message" seemed to be a common approach. He said, "We aim to come back to this issue in the middle of next year (2004)."

He added, "We will probably send a letter to every local authority and the parliament at the stage when people are ordering and designing things like Christmas cards. If we plan it far enough ahead there should be no excuse for people not getting it right next year."

Similar concerns have also been voiced by other Scottish Christians. Writing in Life and Work magazine, the Rev. James Simpson, former moderator of the Church of Scotland, argued against the American trend for using the term "Happy Holidays." He wrote, "I am well aware that... it is also the season of Hanukkah, Eid al-Fitr, the winter solstice, and family gatherings. I am all for giving each of these religious and cultural festivals their due."

But, he concluded, "I earnestly hope that on this side of the Atlantic we won't unthinkingly follow the Americans in lumping all these festivals together in a bland generic blob called 'the holidays'."

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Catholic World News

5 Jan 2004