Pray for suffering Christians in Bethlehem

Pray for suffering Christians in Bethlehem

Dear Editor, Christians in Bethlehem are facing immense challenges amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. The uncertainty and fear that has gripped the region has taken a toll on the lives of the residents, especially those who depend on tourism for their livelihoods.

Bethlehem is not only a spiritual home but also a community grappling with the devastating impact of the conflict. The residents, many of whom rely on the tourism industry, find themselves in an unfortunate position as their main source of income has been obliterated by the hostilities. These are our brethren facing economic hardship, an uncertain future and are suffering. They are quickly becoming a smaller and smaller minority in the majority Muslim town. First the pandemic, and now war, it seems more and more likely with these devastating events there will be no Christians left in the birthplace of Christ. Already ancient Christian communities in the Middle East are fading away – leaving in favour of greener pastures.

It is incumbent upon us to extend our support to the Christians in Bethlehem. Let our prayers serve as a beacon of hope amidst the conflict.

Yours etc.,

Gary Horan

Swords, Dublin


Referendum is an attack on marriage

Dear Editor, I write regarding the sentiments raised in a recent article [The Irish Catholic – December 7, 2023] about the proposed referendum to amend the Constitution, particularly the alterations to Article 41. As the government considers changes to expand the concept of family and eliminate references to the home, it is rightly cautioned that the move will downgrade the significance of marriage in society.

The Iona Institute statement that the proposed rewording of the family section to include relationships beyond marriage may undermine the special value attributed to the institution of marriage is noteworthy. Marriage, as a cornerstone of our society, deserves to be acknowledged and upheld in its uniqueness. Altering the constitutional language to encompass a broader range of relationships raises questions about whether the State fully recognises and values the distinct role of marriage. Which of course, it does not. It is an attack on marriage.

Equally noteworthy is the removal of references to the role of women in the home, with the proposed replacement no longer mentioning the home at all. This omission is indeed significant, as the home holds profound importance in shaping the fabric of our society. While efforts to make language gender-neutral are commendable, overlooking the mention of the home diminishes the acknowledgment of its inherent value to individuals and families.

As these proposed changes unfold, it is crucial for the government to carefully consider the implications of altering foundational elements in our Constitution. The value of marriage and the role of the home in society are principles that should be preserved and celebrated rather than diluted. I stand with warning about the implications of the proposed amendments.

Yours etc.,

Niamh McDermott

Cork City, Cork


Confession is a channel of grace

Dear Editor, I was delighted to read Darach Ó Maoláin’s idea that the Sacrament of Reconciliation should be viewed as an act of humility, [The Irish Catholic – December 7, 2023] rather than a ‘guilt trip’. He gives me hope that the laity will renew the Church. If used as frequently as he suggests, i.e. weekly, the Sacrament of Reconciliation can certainly become a path to heroic humility as one confesses the same vice e.g. unexpressed but felt anger, over and over again, for years. However, I would like to advise any confessors reading this or experiencing this kind of penitent to guard against, if at all possible, the slightest sign of irritation at such a confession, believing, as you have been correctly taught that only mortal sins need to be confessed. Please remember, the sacrament is a channel of grace, and you are the instrument that God uses to make that grace available to us, so don’t erect a barrier with your obvious irritation, impatience, even unavailability. Thoughts begin as feelings, and these, we are told by the divine master, can be mortal sins Mt 5:28. We though, are called to be as perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect Mt 5:48.

Yours etc,

Jane Campbell

Ballina, Co. Mayo


Protecting priests and meeting the future

Dear Editor, As reported, Glen Philips a parish manager stated ‘that there is a growing danger of a “class divide” emerging between parishes if there isn’t proper financial investment in lay ministries [The Irish Catholic – December 7, 2023].

But is the real issue the fact that in the coming years there is likely to be less and less priests to minister and manage parishes across our country? Unless there are changes to who can become a priest or deacon, we will be more reliant on overseas priests. But in the interim, there is surely a potential safeguarding concern that our elderly priests may feel pressured to work beyond what is in the interest of their mental and physical health. The idea of a well-trained parish manager and other trained lay people to share the burden, is one way to protect our priests and meet the future pastoral needs of our parish communities.

Yours etc.,

Deacon Frank Browne

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16


Properly compensating lay ministers

Dear Editor, There will certainly emerge a “class divide” among parishes in Ireland due to the lack of proper financial investment in lay ministries as noted in your front page article [The Irish Catholic – December 7, 2023]. The insights provided by Glen Philips, Ireland’s first parish manager, shed light on the challenges faced by working-class parishes in securing volunteers and the importance of addressing issues related to pay and job security for lay ministers.

The call for expanded lay ministries and increased responsibility for parishioners is undoubtedly commendable, reflecting the evolving nature of our Church and the desire to encourage greater co-responsibility among the laity. Expecting individuals to volunteer their time without proper compensation will of course lead to a stark divide between wealthier and working-class parishes.

Glen Philips rightly points out the difficulty in attracting full-time lay ministers when volunteers are already in short supply. The potential for a “class divide” underscores the need for adequate funding to ensure that all parishes have the resources to support their ministries effectively. The notion of relying on retirees who may have the means and time to volunteer places an unfair burden on working-class parishes, where individuals may not have the luxury of early retirement.

Ger Gallagher’s perspective on the impossibility of encouraging greater responsibilities hits the nail on the head. It is unrealistic to expect commitment without recognising the value of the time and effort invested by laypeople. As he rightly emphasises, a clear plan for investment in lay ministry is essential to reverse the decline in active employment of lay individuals by the Church.

In echoing these concerns, I implore the hierarchy to carefully consider the implications of these challenges and work towards a sustainable and inclusive model that values and compensates the commitment of lay ministers across all parishes.

Yours etc.,

Catherine Mallee

Castleknock, Dublin 15