The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ provides us with a moment of reflective calm as we stand before the manger, thanking God for the gifts of the year just ending and praying for blessings of peace and good will in the year that lies ahead. I share my thoughts and hopes with you in my first Christmas season in the Diocese of Dromore.
Looking back on 2018, the visit of Pope Francis to Dublin last August must be a key moment of joy for many people. His simple proclamation of the good news for families brought joy to all our hearts, not just the thousands who met him at the World Meeting of Families, in Croke Park and in Phoenix Park. In particular, I thank him for his gestures of hope and joy to couples preparing for marriage and to the homeless whom he met at Br Kevin’s Centre for the Homeless in Dublin. His gestures challenge us to support those setting out to share life and build a family together. He also reminds us that our society continues to face the challenge to welcome the homeless just as we welcome the Holy Family this Christmas – let us not forget they were homeless and later forced to migrate to Egypt. In a time of great political and economic uncertainty, we commit ourselves in the coming year to work with all people of good will in building a just and fair society. The birth of the Word made flesh reminds us of the inalienable dignity of each human person, from conception to death, as we redouble our efforts to welcome all newcomers and to care for the weak and dispossessed.
The words of Pope Francis’ Penitential Rite at Phoenix Park continue to challenge us in the Diocese of Dromore. The revelations of the abuse of many young people by the late Fr Finnegan shocked and shamed all members of the diocese. It is easy to turn away from these revelations and say they are in the past. But we all share a responsibility towards those who carry this burden today. The Gospel calls us to show compassion and reconciliation and we must find ways to make this a reality in the life of the diocese. I apologise unreservedly for the hurt and damage caused to his victims by Fr Finnegan, and to the victims of any other priest or representative of the Diocese. Such behaviour towards children and vulnerable people is abhorrent, inexcusable and indefensible, and we must remain fully committed to achieving and maintaining best practice in the area of safeguarding young people and vulnerable adults. The Diocese continues to work with victims and their representatives to establish a process which will achieve the acknowledgement and healing that victims seek to enable them to move forward in their lives and relationships.
I ask your prayers when you visit the Manger for all victims of abuse and neglect in our Diocese that they may find relief from their pain. I also ask that you remember all those active in the parishes and other organisations of the Diocese that they may continue to build up the People of God to give joyful and courageous witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this new year.
+ Philip Boyce, Apostolic Administrator
Christmas Eve, 2018