Christmas shopping on Oxford Street, London Christmas shopping on Oxford Street, London 

Archbishop Longley: Christmas a time to listen, reflect and pray

As Christian communities prepare for the birth of Our Lord at Christmas, Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, in England, speaks about the challenges at this time of year due to the pandemic, and how listening can help people on the Synodal Pathway.

By Lydia O’Kane

Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab on Monday refused to rule out a tightening of social restrictions before Christmas.

Twelve people in Britain have died with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and 104 people are currently in hospital with the new variant.

Britain has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases, and officials have warned that hospitalisations could hit new highs.

Uncertainties of the pandemic

The Archdiocese of Birmingham in England is one of the many dioceses preparing for the birth of Our Lord.

Its Archbishop, Bernard Longley is keenly aware that the uncertainties of the last two years have not gone away but points out that the pandemic has also brought out the best in people.

“Within the life of the Christian community the pandemic has had some unforeseen and some unexpected results, not all of which have been negative in terms of outreach to those in need; a sense of community also in local communities.”

As of 10 December, the British Government made the wearing of face-covering mandatory in places of worship. However, there are still those who are reluctant to return to Mass for fear of infection.

Church celebrations

“We’ve been trying to encourage people to return and be present in the celebration of the Eucharist, of the Mass, and not to forget that actually receiving Our Lord is the very heart of the celebration of Mass," said the Archbishop.

“It is going to be a very uncertain and anxious time for many people over this Christmas,” he noted, and  “we will do all we can to make our churches safe places.”

“Even in these days here in the United Kingdom, advice and government requirements are changing almost day by day, so we have to be alert to do all we can to assist people in having a truly joyful celebration of the Lord’s birth this year.”

Listen to the interview

The Synod

A two-year synodal process is taking place in the Church that will culminate with the celebration of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission”.

Asked about Synodal Path in his Archdiocese, Archbishop Longley said that many people have welcomed the opportunity to “demonstrate their faith” in this way, in the life of the Church, and in particular “to pick up the Holy Father’s invitation to contribute to the Church’s mission by reflecting with one another.”

Importance of listening

Above all, he stressed the importance of listening, which, he added, has been evident with clergy, religious, and the lay faithful. “To me that links with our understanding of obedience; to listen deeply to what the Father is asking of us over this Christmas period, to reflect and pray about how we can contribute in the New Year,” the Archbishop said.

“I’m very conscious as a bishop of wishing to listen in a deeper way to my priests, to deacons, to the religious in the Archdiocese, to the school communities, and particularly to try to hear those who are on the margins.”

He underlined that the Synodal Pathway is a way of “living our Christian faith in the Church; it’s not simply an event which happens in 2023, so I’m sure it will continue.”

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20 December 2021, 12:31