An Irish priest has urged Catholics to abandon the word “Christmas”, saying that its meaning has been hijacked.
Fr Desmond O’Donnell told the Belfast Telegraph last week: “We’ve lost Christmas, just like we lost Easter, and should abandon the word completely.
“We need to let it go. It’s already been hijacked and we just need to recognise and accept that.”
Fr O’Donnell, who ministers at Cleenish parish near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, said he was “simply asking that space be preserved for believers for whom Christmas has nothing to do with Santa and reindeer”.
“I’m just trying to rescue the reality of Christmas for believers by giving up ‘Christmas’ and replacing it with another word,” he explained.
He also said that “non-believers deserve and need their celebration too – it’s an essential human dynamic and we all need that in the toughness of life”.
Fr O’Donnell follows a long tradition of clergy and Church leaders who have spoken out against the secularisation of Christmas – not least Benedict XVI, who said in 2011 that it was “necessary to recover the meaning of this Christmas season, divesting it of excessive moralistic sentimentality”.
Other priests have drawn negative attention for appearing to criticise cherished secular traditions.
In 2014 Fr Dennis Higgins, a parish priest in Buxton, Derbyshire, made the headlines when he told primary school pupils that Santa Claus was not real. Parishioners set up a Facebook page to support him after parents complained that the priest was taking the magic out of Christmas.
Concern over school trans law
The Bishops of England and Wales have “concerns” about the laws around transgender pupils, Bishop John Sherrington has said.
Speaking at the press conference after the bishops’ meeting, Bishop Sherrington said: “The schools system has to work within the law, but … there are concerns that we have about the law.”
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