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Leaders proclaim true meaning of Christmas

Sydney's Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, has said that the message of Christmas, more than its symbols of decorations and carols, holds out hope of better times to come for broken families, lonely suburbanites and even religious cynics.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Cardinal Pell said in his annual Christmas message that "useful public debate" about Christmas decorations and carols indicates the importance of symbols for "people of all religions and little religion".

"At this time, Christians should show their colours and acknowledge their devotion to the Christ child, while others can use symbols of little religious significance ranging from reindeer to holly and ivy," he said.

It is the wider message of Christmas that gave life meaning for "soldiers far from home, people sleeping rough, broken families, lonely suburbanites, religious cynics".

"The imagery of the stable helps; the magic and comfort of carols and snow and presents help. But more than all of this, Christmas touches people because the message is that we are not forgotten by God.

"Wherever you are and however difficult your life and your year, God is not a hair's breadth away from you. You are welcome in our churches this Christmas, and always. If you take time to speak to God in prayer and to listen, you will find new strength and direction," Cardinal Pell said.

In Melbourne, Archbishop Denis Hart said Christmas is a gift of unparalleled love.

"At Christmas we pause and know God's love - to share our mission of encouraging others in truth, justice and compassion," Archbishop Hart said. "May all in our great city know the peace that only God can bring."

The Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle in NSW, Michael Malone, said that catering to the lowest common denominator and celebrating Christmas devoid of its real meaning does not necessarily bring tolerance or inclusion.

"Both are much more demanding, requiring a shift in attitude, an understanding and knowledge of the other and a recognition of differences," he said in his Christmas message published on the diocesan website.

As reported yesterday, Brisbane's Archbishop John Bathersby has attracted most attention for his determination to give a warm welcome to the large numbers of irregular worshippers who attend only Christmas (and perhaps Easter) services.

"We value your presence during this joyous season and would welcome your deeper involvement in the life of the Church in 2005," the archbishop says in his message on the card.

Other dioceses and parishes are sending out a similar message. Parish priest of inner-city Richmond in Melbourne, Fr Peter Norden SJ, has distributed 10,000 Midnight Mass invitations to every Richmond dwelling and to all the coffee bars, pubs and restaurants in the area.

"I will be confirming this inclusive welcome to the 500 expected visitors on Friday night, especially to those who believe they have been excluded by church in some way," he explained.

"The Bakhtiyari family will provide a contemporary example of how the Holy Family were treated in Bethlehem at the time of Christ's birth," he suggested. "We need to get back to a ministry which makes it clear that all are welcome to our Christmas celebration, regardless of race, cultural background, religion or even sexual orientation," he concluded.

Leaders proclaim the true meaning (Sydney Morning Herald 24/12/04)
Church leaders give Christmas messages (National Nine News/AAP 23/12/04)
Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
Red carpet for Christmas "drifter" massgoers (CathNews 23/12/04)
Famous Richmond church reaches out to the inner city (Saint Ignatius Church 23/12/04)

Archdiocese of Sydney
Archdiocese of Melbourne
Archdiocese of Brisbane
St Ignatius' Church, Richmond

Christmas Message 2004 Cardinal George Pell Archbishop of Sydney
Christmas Message Archbishop of Melbourne -- Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne (Archdiocese of Melbourne)
NCCA Christmas Message 2004 (National Council of Churches of Australia)
A Christmas Message from the CI Secretary General (Caritas Internationalis 16/12/04)
A Claytons Christmas? (Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle)
Uniting Church President's Christmas message 2004 (Insights 2/12/04)
Christmas card from archbishop [John Bathersby of Brisbane] (Catholic Leader 26/12/04)
Pre-Christmas Address (Zenit 22/12/04)
Indonesia mobilizes security for churches, potential terror targets (Catholic World News 22/12/04)
Christmas in Tashkent after the wounds of Soviet atheism ( 23/12/04)
Christmas in the orphanage or how the joy of the season meets hope for the future ( 23/12/04)
Christmas, peace in the Holy Land, peace on earth ( 23/12/04)
Fr Eugene Hemrick: True meaning of family (Catholic Weekly 26/12/04)
Christmas Mass telecast to reach 72 countries (Catholic World News 23/12/04)
Cell-phone service to carry Vatican Christmas events (Catholic World News 23/12/04)
Christmas story is God's message of defiance says Palestinian leader (Ekklesia 22/12/04)
Orthodox patriarch says Christmas offers hope to world in crisis (Ecumenical News International 23/12/04)
The Pope's teaching at the general audience: "In the Mystery of Christmas we contemplate a 'leap in quality' in the history of salvation. Although our sin has separated us from God, in Christ we are offered the gift of a new and fuller communion with Him" (Fides 22/12/04)
Christmas 2004: popular, secular and mainly idle (The Guardian 23/12/04)
John Aglionby: Jettisoning Jesus (The Guardian 23/12/04)
Turkey: Muslim children enjoy visit to Christmas crib (Independent Catholic News/Fides 23/12/04)
Pope: our hearts do not fear because we have faith in the Child of Bethlehem (Independent Catholic News/Fides 23/12/04)
Christmas in the world's South: "nahnu Ma'akum" from the forgotten Jenin (Missionary Service News Agency 23/12/04)
The earthiness of Christmas ( 19/12/04)
A Christmas glimpse beyond the manger (The Age 24/12/04)
Walk through Bethlehem - in suburban Melbourne (The Age 24/12/04)
Arnold Zable: We treat some killers better than asylum seekers (The Age 22/12/04)
Rev Dr John Williams: Merry... oh, all right... Christmas! (The Age 23/12/04)
Editorial: Christmas is a time for peace and tolerance (The Australian 24/12/04)
Kate Legge: An obsession with shine puts the gloss on giving (The Australian 24/12/04)
Fr Ron Rolheiser: Dark nights of the soul test our faith (Western Catholic Reporter 27/12/04)
A Time to Live Meaning of Jesus' Birth, Says Pope (Zenit 22/12/04)
Italian Kids Reaching Out to Young Iraqis at Christmas (Zenit 22/12/04)
Israeli Christians Get OK to Spend Christmas in Bethlehem (Zenit 22/12/04)

24 Dec 2004