3 December 2020



            I draw your attention to the Pastoral Message of the Bishops of Ireland on our preparations for the celebration of Christmas, issued after our on-line meeting yesterday. 


            The Bishops address the challenges linked with the celebration of Mass during the Christmas period.  The thoughts are the same as our diocesan policy.  Allow me to quote some paragraphs:


Clearly it will be impossible for our usual large congregations to assemble for Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  We wish to remind Catholics that the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days remains suspended during the pandemic.  But Christmas is about more than just one day.  Families are welcome to attend Mass at some point during the twelve days from Christmas Eve to Epiphany. Christmas Masses will also be widely available over webcam and we strongly encourage families to “tune in” from the “domestic churches” of their living rooms and join with those who are gathering in their local churches in welcoming the birth of the Christ-child.


It is possible to experience the spiritual richness of this special season in many ways. Our homes can become “little churches” where we invite the Christ-child in.  The age-old tradition of having a Christmas crib in the home and gathering there as a family to pray or to sing a carol will be especially meaningful this year. We also invite families or “household bubbles” to pay a visit to their local church at some time during the twelve days to offer a Christmas prayer at the crib and pray together for their families and for those particularly impacted by the pandemic”.


            I am aware that at the moment parishes are reflecting of different solutions.   I respect that.  I would ask that in any decision you take into consideration the effects of your decision on neighboring parishes and that you ensure that your decision is well explained to parishioners and that you elicit understanding and ownership by them.


            We have to be careful not to focus only on the liturgical celebration of Christmas. We have to see where our parishes can generate an atmosphere of care and kindness for those for whom this Christmas will be one tinged with sadness.  We celebrate the birth of Jesus both within our Church buildings but also by bringing the message and the magic of Christ to those we encounter.  Our ministry is not limited just to sacramental ministry.  We have to witness in society to what the sacraments means.  I quote again from the Bishops’ message.


 “We are particularly conscious of those whose livelihoods have been seriously threatened by the pandemic.  We keep in mind those for whom Christmas time may bring feelings of sadness – people coping with bereavement, families that cannot be together, those in care homes who can only have limited visits from their loved ones.  Christmas can be difficult for Irish emigrants and migrants living in Ireland, who are unable to travel home”.  


            We know also how much organisations such as the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and Crosscare need financial support to help them carry out their work over Christmas.


            We have also to be cautious about hopes that the approval of vaccines will quickly change the need for vigilance.  Vaccines will not radically change the situation overnight.  It will be some considerable time before a wide sector of the population will be vaccinated. The battle with this virus will take much longer than many imagine and that in the meantime the current norms of hygiene, safe distancing and strict limitation of personal contacts are still then fundamentals. 


We have to ensure that we restrict our gatherings to what is essential and use good sense and prudence to avoid risk especially to children and the elderly. Where safety cannot be respected then better show restraint.


            Finally I draw your attention to the on line video “retreat” videos which have been prepared by the Office for Clergy and which are coming on line in these days.


+Diarmuid Martin

December 3, 2020