The Church of Ireland Dean of Belfast Dr Houston McKelvey presented cheques to Help the Aged and Age Concern and hit out yesterday at those who attack and rob the elderly.
Speaking at the beginning of his annual sit-out at St Anne's Cathedral, he said: "Too many of our elderly have had their homes broken into, and the memories of their lives stolen. It is a truly traumatic experience for them, and especially when they have been home at the time and been threatened with violence."
He added: "There is something dreadfully sick and evil with those who attack our elderly in such a way. Help the Aged and Age Concern work on a much broader front, but this is a basic way of thanking them for their efforts, and to let them know that they do not stand alone in expressing concern about the way in which our elderly have been victimised and terrified."
The sit-out was started in 1976 by Dean Samuel Crooks who wore a black cloak and dark head-gear. He was immediately nick-named "the Black Santa" and the event soon became part of recognised Christmas activities in Belfast.
The tradition was carried on by the late Dean Jack Shearer and currently by Dean McKelvey.
During the rest of this week Dr McKelvey and his colleagues will collect hundreds of thousands of pounds to help a range of local charities, and also overseas projects backed by Christian Aid.
The proceeds will be handed over to charity representatives at a Sunday afternoon service in a few weeks time.
In the meantime a significant cheque will be given to Christian Aid at the Christmas Eve service of Lessons and Carols in the Belfast cathedral.
Much of the money for the appeal will be given by passers-by at the steps of the cathedral, and the donations will be from a range of people and businesses.
The money is collected by the Dean and his clergy colleagues and counted daily and banked by a team from the cathedral.
The final amount will be announced at the carol service on Christmas Eve.