Christmas Message

Wednesday, December 11 1996

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Saviour and Lord. We celebrate our encounter with him. We celebrate our conversion to his way and our communion as sisters and brothers. We celebrate our solidarity with the poor, the oppressed, the homeless, the refugee.

In their October 17, 1996, pastoral letter entitled The Struggle Against Poverty: A Sign of Hope for Our World, the members of the Commission for Social Affairs of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops recalled a commitment made by all bishops at the time of their episcopal ordination: “to welcome with love and in the name of Our Lord, the poor and the displaced of the world and all those in need.” This commitment belongs to all the faithful, aware that when we welcome “one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me!” (Mt 25:40)

Christians have begun to prepare for the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. We are invited to celebrate “God with us” in Jesus Christ – yesterday, today and forever! From an event which took place at Bethlehem 2000 years ago, we celebrate the presence of the living God today, and into a future filled with hope. Jubilee celebrations are moments to give thanks to God for the gracious gifts bestowed on us. We are invited to return a little of all we have received. Everyone has a part in assuring that we are ready.

As one event in preparation for the Great Jubilee, the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has called representatives from the Episcopal Conferences of America (North, Central and South) to gather in Rome for a Special Synod of Bishops for America. The theme for the Synod, Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America, calls us to reflect on our experience of faith. In an age which has many causes for concern and many signs of hope, the Holy Father invites us to abandon fear and discouragement, and to listen carefully to what the Spirit is saying to the pilgrim Church in America.

Once again this Christmas, we celebrate God’s love for us, God’s greatest gift to us, God’s reassuring presence to us in Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Please accept my sincerest good wishes for God’s richest blessings during this Christmas season and throughout 1997. May it be a special time for each of you to encounter Jesus Christ.

+ Francis J. Spence
Archbishop of Kingston
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops