The heart of the Christmas message is reaching out to those who have no home or have been displaced, the Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin has said.
Following several recent stories of migrants suffering horrific deaths in containers and arriving on Irish shores the prelate told The Irish Catholic “it’s bringing home to us that this is an international problem”.
This comes after 16 migrants were found on the back of a truck trailer on a ferry sailing to Wexford near the end of November and eight migrants were found two weeks later on a cargo ship heading for Waterford.
Archbishop Eamon said that the 39 Vietnamese migrants found dead in a refrigerated container in Essex on October 23 brought home the seriousness of the situation for Irish people.
“I would notice it here on the ground. A lot of people are quite shocked by the trafficking stories that are emerging, like the recent horrific incident in England in the lorry, and also the increasing number of migrants apparently showing up on our shores,” Archbishop Martin said.
“Our hearts go out at Christmas to anyone who is without their home or who is being displaced, it really does bring us to the heart of the Christmas message.”
In the bishops’ Winter 2019 General Meeting statement, their focus was on the marginalised, including refugees.
After a meeting in which several Catholic prelates discussed the community sponsorship model for welcoming refugees with Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Minister of State with responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton, the bishops called on Catholic parishes and communities to welcome and assist refugees in their local areas “in light of the Gospel message”.
“For Catholic communities who are able to be more proactive in terms of practically assisting with the accommodation and integration of refugees, bishops commended to them the Community Sponsorship Programme, overseen by the Department of Justice and Equality, as a practical expression of Catholic social teaching and a response to Pope Francis’ call for every parish to receive and welcome a refugee family.”
Archbishop Eamon Martin added: “I think there are a lot of communities who will do this and we will certainly be encouraging this in our churches and our parishes.”