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Christmas and New Year reflections from Cardinal Keith O'Brien  

CHRISTMAS REFLECTION FROM CARDINAL O BRIEN: 2003  

Each passing year brings a certain number of changes in the lives of every one of us. This past year of 2003 has, brought particular changes for me “ I was created a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in October.  


I do appreciate the tremendous number of greetings from all peoples of goodwill, following on my appointment “ and I thank them most sincerely. On my return to Scotland I have thought seriously about the challenges that face us across the United Kingdom and I mention two in particular: the need to re-introduce the Christian message; and the need for ˜marriage and family life to be promoted and supported in our country.  


At this time of year we celebrate one of the great Christian festivals, though we might question how many people appreciate its Christian significance.  

Though still nominally a Christian country, it is appropriate to ask: do we observe Christian standards in our homes, our places of work, and our places of recreation or do we fall far short of the teachings of Jesus Christ? “ In a country which has heard the Christian message for over 1,500 years, we might ask: how Christian are our Christmas cards; is there a Nativity Scene in any public place in our home or in our community; will Christmas Day be a real relaxed family day for us all or simply a day on which we over-indulge ourselves and life almost goes on as normal? Depending on your answers to these questions, you will know whether or not the Christian message has managed to be heard above the commercial cacophony “ I hope it has!  


I hope too that our attitudes to marriage and family life will change. We are all aware of the changed standards that seem to apply today. So many more people ˜live together rather than entering into the Sacrament of Marriage; children are no longer regarded as a gift from God, but often seen as something of a burden; while attacks on marriage and family life are no longer seen as attacks on the very basis of our society.  


Just as we are increasingly aware of the rapid changes, which are taking place around us, so too should we be aware of the message Christ, brought us 2000 years ago “ it has not changed and it remains for all who wish to hear it.  


I hope you are able to find time in this busy season to stop and listen. May God bless you now and in the year that lies ahead.  





NEW YEAR REFLECTION FROM CARDINAL O BRIEN: 2004  

As the Christmas carols fade away and the last of the presents is unwrapped or thoughts turn to the New Year ahead. Many of us fill this time of year with resolutions and promises to do better in one way or another.  


We look forward to the months ahead with hope and anticipation. Sadly our well-intentioned resolutions often fall by the wayside, by the time January ends!  


This year I d like to ask you to make just one resolution and try hard to keep it “ that resolution is to help those in need . Our increased consumption at this time of year reminds us just how well off we are and by contrast it should remind us too of how badly off are others.  

We need only look around us to see those who like our intentions, fall by the wayside or who are, for whatever reason in need of support here at home. Drink and drugs, the unbridled abuse of the gift of sex, unemployment, the lack of a home, uncontrolled debt, mental or physical illness of one kind or another “ all take their toll on weak human beings.  

Many fall and cannot rise without a helping hand “ that hand could be yours.  

In two weeks time I will travel to Africa, visiting the Democratic republic of the Congo and Rwanda with the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund. In both these countries, like many others in Africa, hunger and poverty are widespread.  

Though our aid agencies try to help those in need , they rely on you for all that they do.  
If you resolve to help those in need , you will support their work and they in turn will improve the lives of children, women and men you may never meet but whose lives you will have changed.  


As a member of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant peoples I will spend time in the year ahead discussing and deliberating with others on how best we can help displaced people around the world. In doing so I will try to remember that we have displaced people in our midst here at home. Refugees and asylum seekers many fleeing persecution and torment deserve our help and support.  


Lets make 2004 the year in which we hold out our hands to those in need.  

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