Christmas Message from Bishop Kevin Doran

22 Dec 2014

Christmas is a time of many images; parcels and reindeer, candles and trees. The image that is always strongest for me, however, is the image of family. Christmas brings me face to face with the Holy Family of Nazareth, the family into which Jesus was born and grew to human maturity, nourished by the love of Joseph and Mary. At the same time, my childhood memories of Christmas are memories of family and so I find myself, each Christmas, giving thanks for the gift of my own family which was – and still remains – an important influence in who I am as a person. This year, of course, I have a new diocesan family and I very much look forward to celebrating the Birth of Christ here with you in the Diocese of Elphin.

It is important not to over-romanticise our notion of family. Love is challenging. Men and women struggle with what it involves. The family of Nazareth struggled with it too. Many families in our diocese face particular difficulties relating to the economy, to ill-health and to the breakdown of relationship, to mention just the more obvious challenges. In our recent pastoral letter “The Meaning of Marriage” the Irish Bishops commented that “it is not sufficient for us to talk about the importance of family. We also have a responsibility to do all that we can to offer practical support for marriage in our parish communities, in our liturgies and our pastoral action and, as individual members of society, through our social and political action.” I hope that our celebration of Christmas and our prayer before the crib can help to reawaken in all of us, an awareness of what it means to be the family of God, and brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Perhaps, without any hint of interference, you may be able, from your family, to reach out to another family in need of support.

Christmas is often associated in our minds with the New Year. The government has indicated its intention to hold a referendum in the New Year which, if passed, would change the meaning of marriage and raise serious questions about parenthood. “Children have a right”, as Pope Francis says, “to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s growth and emotional development”. At this stage, I would ask you simply to read carefully what is written in the pastoral statement “The Meaning of Marriage”, which you can find in your parish Church, or on Weigh the arguments carefully and remember, this is not about the equal dignity of every person (which is beyond doubt). Rather, it is about the meaning of marriage.

+ Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin