Ten years ago in 2006 the Diocesan Reach Out was themed ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ and the poster carried the striking photograph of three Nicaraguan child workers. Ten years later the image of thousands of children suffering in the atrocity that is Syria continues to haunt us.
This year we think of the people of Syria in our Reach Out Campaign which Bishop Denis launched today with confirmation pupils from Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal and Bishop Foley schools in Carlow. Parishes across the diocese will this weekend be distributing a Christmas card which shows pictures from Syria and a small prayer card which we encourage all to use. We will be making a financial donation to Caritas International via Trocaire as our Reach Out gift.
The following is the text of the message from Bishop Denis found in the Christmas card.
Since 2004 parishes across our diocese have marked the Advent Christmas Season with a shared Reach Out initiative. Through a simple card and a gift, parishes extend a Christmas greeting and blessing to those near and afar. Just at that time in the Church year when we celebrate that the Light of the World has come into our midst, we seek to share this Light with others in our Reach Out. Pope Francis often challenges us as church to go to the margins, the fringes, the Diocesan Reach Out initiative seeks to do just that.
Returning to our celebration of the Light of the World coming into our midst, 2016 is a year in which perhaps the darkness has had too much say. When we look at the events across our world – the devastation and misery wrought by conflict, the unbearable hardships of people who have been displaced from their homeland or who seek to remain and survive in the most awful of situations, the persecution and genocide of people based on religion and ethnicity – these are events to which the Gospel compels us to respond. In this holy season we rise up and announce to ourselves and to the world, ‘A Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ (John 1:5)
In the circumstances of our times, our Reach Out initiative needs to make a change this year from past tradition. This year parishes in Kildare and Leighlin are Reaching Out locally with this card and its accompanying prayer. But the parish gift this year is a financial donation made in the name of the people of our diocese to Trócaire who act on behalf of Caritas International in Ireland. Trócaire will divert this donation towards Caritas Syria and their work in specific projects for the people of Syria. The United Nations has referred to the Syrian situation as the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II. We must play our part in bringing humanitarian aid to our brothers and sisters of the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity. This is what Jesus taught us to do, to help one another. In this one action we unite with all people of faith who through their concrete actions of mercy reveal time and again the Light who conquers all darkness.
In this season of light and hope I pray for peace in Syria and across the Middle East and all places of conflict in our world. I pray also for the deep peace of Christ to find a resting place in your home and heart. I invite you to join with me in praying our Prayer for Peace in this season when we once more welcome Christ, the Light of the world, into our lives.
Wishing you every blessing and grace at Christmas and in the New Year.