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Church leaders deliver Christmas messages of peace, love and hope

By Alf McCreary

Published 24/12/2015

The Rt Reverend Dr Ian McNie
The Rt Reverend Dr Ian McNie
Archbishop Richard Clarke
Archbishop Eamon Martin
The Reverend Brian Anderson

Northern Ireland's church leaders have spoken of the difficulty of finding hope in the future.

In a joint Christmas message, the Primates of the Church of Ireland and Catholic Church, Archbishop Richard Clarke and Archbishop Eamon Martin, said: "Hope is a fundamental Christian quality, but it is never an individualistic thing."

"If we are to be people of hope, we are also to be agents of hope.

"What we do for others, in simple ways or sometimes demanding ways, is sowing hope for the future.

"We can become envoys of hope in the name of the Christ, who was born in a stable in Bethlehem"

The Presbyterian Moderator, the Rt Reverend Dr Ian McNie, said: "As Christians we are called to love our neighbour, welcome the stranger and care for those in need.

"Christmas time gives us an additional opportunity to express that love through practical acts of kindness, thoughtfulness and appreciation to those whom we know and those who have no-one else to care for them."

The Methodist President, the Reverend Brian Anderson, said that because of his current role this was the first time in 22 years when he did not have a congregation with which to share Christmas directly.

He added: "The Church takes many criticisms, some of which are justified, but at its best it is a group of people wanting to love each other and the community around them.

"Last Saturday, we opened the manse and invited the church and the neighbours to come to our house for mulled wine and mince pies. Really it was to catch up and share some Christmas cheer, producing a more seasonal President."

The Catholic Bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, said: "The Christmas story is not just a nice tale about distant events, a story that the child in each of us still loves. It is a carefully crafted story, which says that healing in society is possible. It says that healing will not come from a God of guts and guns, but from a defenceless child.

"Peace will come, not from the victory of the righteous heroes, but from those who love and give."

The Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, the Rt Reverend Ken Good, said that Christmas is one of his favourite times of the year.

He added: "It's a time of rich traditions, of family memories, of warm associations and of great joy, because at its spiritual centre is the celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus. Once the decorations have been put away and the Christmas tree has come down, let us pray that we continue to receive the gift of Christ's peace each day. And let us determine to give others the gift of goodwill every day."

The Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Noel Treanor, said: "Like the Christ child, born into a situation of conflict, our present history is again marred by violence and attacks on humanity, sometimes in the name of religion.

"This Christmas, our prayers and thoughts reach out to those who have suffered and died as a result of attacks such as those in Paris. Such attacks of terrorism and the resultant fear in the face of radicalisation are at variance with the call to peace of the newly born Christ child."

In a joint statement, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Reverend John McDowell, and the Catholic Bishop of Clogher, Dr Liam MacDaid, said: "The birth of Christ and the circumstances of His life challenge us to be in solidarity with the oppressed, the marginalised and 'expendable' people of our own day.

"Often the humanity and heroism of the non-religious bring our understanding of solidarity to a point of action. Let what we give be ourselves."

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