+ Bishop Colm O'Reilly - Christmas Message, 2005

The 'little town of Bethlehem' that holds a special place in the hearts of Christian people everywhere is not what is used to be. It is dominated by a high wall which divides the community there. Little shops which sold souvenirs to many thousands of pilgrims in the past have closed down. Many people to whom Bethlehem was home have left it forever.


It is all very sad, not just for those who loved Bethlehem as their native place. It is sad for all of us who formed in our minds from childhood a picture of a beautiful and peaceful place where shepherds once heard the angels sing.


Lamenting the destruction that brought Bethlehem to its knees will not change anything. But learning lessons about what can happen when communities are torn apart is a must in a world where other towns ain other places have suffered the same fate.


Ireland has good reason to sympathise with those who suffer from racial, political and religious tension. We have been close to turmoil and trouble, close enough to want to ensure that we do not drift into intolerance of a new kind.


In some places in Ireland, church-going people are enlisted to welcome those who live nearby but do not share in their practice of faith. For Christmas they offer to newcomers a candle as a sign of welcome, with a prayer to be used by families when they are seated for their Christmas dinner. We have not organised the ways and means of doing this but we should all do something to show that we want to reach out to each other at this time.


The shepherds who tended their sheep on the hillside were not the kind of people who would be welcome in the town of Bethlehem when Jesus came. They were regarded as dishonest and rough in their ways. But it was these uncouth men who were directed to the place where Christ was born. Who are we to decide who should be admitted? Who can we dare to turn away?


May you have a joyful and blessed Christmas.


+ Bishop Colm O'Reilly

Archived References  
Bishop Colm's Christmas Message 2010
Statement by Bishop Colm O'Reilly on the Dublin Report
Bishop Colm O'Reilly video interview for Mission Sunday 2009
Message on Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock 2009
Homily by Bishop Colm for Trinity Sunday, on 150 years of SVP in Longford.
Bishop Colm's Pastoral Letter Easter 2009
Bishop Colm's Christmas Message 2008
Bishop's Letter to the Diocese, Easter 2008, 'on the way forward'.
Bishop's Message for the Year of Vocation
Bishop's Homily at Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock, Sept 2007
Message from Bishop Colm on Ferns Report
Message from Bishop Colm on the death of Pope John Paul II
Homily by Bishop Colm at Requiem Mass for Pope John Paul II in St. Mel's Cathedral, 7th April
Statement from the Bishop, 27th May 2006
Homily at Clonmacnois Pattern Day, 2006
Bishop's Christmas Message 2005
Message from Bishop Colm for Vocations Sunday 2005