JOINT CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FOR 2022
THE MOST REV LARRY DUFFY,
ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CLOGHER
THE RIGHT REV DR IAN ELLIS,
CHURCH OF IRELAND BISHOP OF CLOGHER
As Christmas approaches, we join together in prayer-filled reflection to look forward with hope to the coming days when we mark the coming of God as one of us; as one who walks with us in our joys and sorrows, no matter where we are or who we are.
During this past year we have witnessed the invasion of Ukraine and the outbreak of war on the continent of Europe for the first time in almost eighty years. Many have been forced to flee their homes and become refugees – becoming exiles in a continent that prides itself as a beacon of dignity, freedom, justice and the democratic way of life. Those people- mostly women and children – forced to leave Ukraine are not alone; many others across our world have had to flee persecution, often on account of their religious belief. In more recent days we have seen on our TV screens the harrowing images of people fleeing across the English Channel, some of them sadly losing their lives. Indeed, recent UN figures show that 2 billion people across of the world – one in four of our global population – live in conflict.
Conflicts often bring other situations into focus, such as economic and financial pressures or social issues like homelessness and housing insecurity. All these place challenges and choices before us in terms of how we respond. Thankfully, people all across Europe have responded generously during this past year, including here in our Diocese of Clogher. Many thousands of people from Ukraine and other places of conflict and persecution have been welcomed to this island and the way in which families and communities have embraced them is exemplary. Those same communities are also helping and supporting many families and individuals to cope with the energy and financial crisis here through a variety of charitable organisations and bodies, nationally and locally. By doing all this, they proclaim through actions the love of God – walking with people in all kinds of situations; giving hope to us all in times of darkness and fear.
The Prophet Isaiah, writing at a time of invasion, war and desolation, tells us that:
‘A shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.’ (Is. 11: 1-2)
Some 700 years after this was written, Jesus Christ our Saviour was born in a stable in Bethlehem. Let us not forget that he too was a refugee and an immigrant, having to flee for safety to Egypt along with Mary and Joseph (See Matthew 2: 13-15). They knew the reality of violence and fear.
The God who comes to us each year at Christmas identifies with refugees and those facing economic hardship or the effects of war, wherever they are. His presence in our midst not only renews us and gives us hope, but challenges each of us again and again to witness to that presence in all people and to bring his live-giving hope to them, especially in times of conflict. God walks with us all year round. May we be open to walking with him in welcoming the stranger, helping those in need wherever they may be; and may we all pray and work for peace, reconciliation and justice in our broken world.
Let us pray,
Lord God our Father, at this time of celebration, let us bring to prayer all those who are suffering because of war, violence, persecution or any kind of economic or social hardship.
We remember especially the millions across the world who are displaced,
especially those from Ukraine and other places of conflict.
Sharpen our awareness of how issues are inter-related. Keep our consciences alert.
May our leaders develop policies and rules that are guided by humanity and vision and informed by your love for all.
Thank you for the work of the many people and organisations that bring your compassion and love to those in need.
Bring peace to the people of Ukraine, Russia and other troubled places.
Eternal Father, as we welcome the birth of your Son, walk with your people, wherever they are, to remind them of your eternal presence, your comfort and your strength.
May the peace, joy and hope of Christ be with us now and forever, Amen.
Yours in Christ,
+ Larry Duffy + Ian Ellis
Roman Catholic Bishop of Clogher Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher
21 December 2022
Notes for Editors
- Bishop Larry Duffy is the Roman Catholic Bishop of Clogher.
- Bishop Ian Ellis is the Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher
- The Diocese of Clogher comprises of all of County Monaghan, most of Fermanagh and portions of Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan. Both dioceses are almost coterminous, the exception being a portion of Co Leitrim which is part of the Church of Ireland diocese and the Bundoran- Ballyshannon area of Co Donegal which is part of the Roman Catholic diocese but no longer part of the Church of Ireland diocese.