Churches must be more welcoming

(Photo: George Bosela)

The Most Reverent Bernard Longely has written a letter to parishes in the Archdiocese of Birmingham emphasising the importance of family, a good welcome and being non-judgemental.

"We should be slow to judge and quick to embrace those who are afraid to cross the threshold of the Church because they fear they are not perfect," he writes.

"The family of the parish must always offer a place of welcome for those who no longer find themselves in stable or conventional family situations."

He notes that this is particularly important during the festive season, when we remember that God chose to be born into the world into a humble, familiar family setting.

"At Christmas we have been celebrating a divine mystery revealed to us in the ordinary circumstances of the life of a family," the Archbishop says.

"The family setting for Jesus' birth was the loving and trusting relationship between Mary and Joseph and the difficult circumstances in which they found themselves from the outset."

Archbishop Longley contends that we should use this as inspiration to echo the humility, grace and compassion of Mary and Joseph.

"May the Holy Family of Nazareth inspire and encourage us to be true to Christ and to reflect his mercy in the world and in our own family homes," he urges.

He also highlights the preparations being made for the 2014 Synod of Bishops on pastoral challenges of the family, noting the difficulties faced by families today.

"The example of the Holy Family and their experiences of misunderstanding and rejection remind us of the need for understanding and compassion - especially for those who have experienced a break-down of family life or who may have become estranged from their closest relatives," he writes.

"Despite the hardships that surrounded the birth of their child Mary and Joseph did not grow cynical or suspicious of the world around them and they communicated this generous outlook in their family life.

"The Holy Family embraces us, with all our imperfections, so that we may long for and find healing and perfection in Christ.

"Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you," he concludes.