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Popular notions of hard-working families forking out for benefit scroungers are well wide of the mark, argues the author of a new book, which shows that virtually everyone at some point in their lives needs government support
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Christmas can be a frightening time for people who worry they don’t have the money to spend on food and gifts that they and others expect, Bishop Kieran Conry said in a statement to mark Bible Sunday, which was yesterday.
Bishop Conry, who chairs the Bishops’ Conference’s Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis, advocates reading the Bible to address the high levels of stress and anxiety some feel in the weeks leading up to Christmas. He singled out people on low incomes and with difficult personal relationships as some of the worst affected and said that the words of peace and hope in the Bible were life-changing.
“Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of all that is good, but for many it is actually frightening, if they don't have the financial resources to meet other people's and their own expectations. Many passages in the Bible, especially familiar passages like the beginning of chapter 5 in Matthew's Gospel, suggest a simpler way of living,” said Bishop Conry.
The passage the bishop alludes to is the Beatitudes where Jesus blesses – among others – the poor in spirit, the meek and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
He added: “Christmas really should be about less, not more – more love, yes, but not more food and not more expense. It's a time for many people to mend relationships, and one of those can be our relationship with God. As your circumstances allow, please do also consider how you might be able to help those in need in your local community.”
The Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN), the social action arm of the Bishops' Conference, said today that Catholic charities were having to act swiftly to deal with food poverty over Christmas.
"At Christmas the hardships in our society where 3.5 million children live in poverty and almost 350,000 people are resorting to foodbanks is thrown into sharp relief," Chief Executive Helen O'Brien said. "Christmas is traditionally a time of excess when most of us tuck into leftover turkey sandwiches for days after Christmas but for many families this year the prospect of a meal with any meat is little more than a dream. Catholic charities up and down the country are doing their best to alleviate the pain and suffering of families living in poverty, not only in this season of good cheer but throughout the year. They are taking up Pope Francis’ call to be a Church of the poor - and not just at Christmas."
The charity said today that it backed Pope Francis' call to end world hunger, and would take part in the global "wave of prayer" that he had initiated.