The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said people of faith might describe 2017 as “annus horribilis” because of euthanasia laws in Victoria, the exposure of child sexual abuse in the Catholic church, and the legalisation of same-sex marriage were failures that challenged “our Christian conceptions of life”.
“Like any year, this one has had its challenges for our world, our country and each of us individually,” Fisher said in his annual Christmas message.
“For people of faith you might say it’s been an annus horribilis, as our Christian conceptions of life and love have been challenged in the marriage and euthanasia debates; freedom of religion in Australia put in doubt; and shameful crimes and cover-ups in our Church uncovered by the royal commission.
“But the Christmas story insists there is a star in the dark sky, light amidst the fears and failures. Christmas speaks of new hope.”
There was a need for renewed hope to unite people, Fisher said. He said the Australian Catholic Youth festival had been a highlight of the year.
“The throng of young people standing up for faith and ideals says to us that whatever the past failures, we can have hope for ourselves, our families, our church, our nation, our world,” he said. “Our young people are not naive about the shames in our past or the trials in our future. But they want to be part of the answer to both.”
The Archbishop of Melbourne Dennis Hart had a similarly dark Christmas message.
“We live in a world and a church that is rapidly changing,” he said in a video. “Every morning we seem to wake up to more bad global news of hurricanes, floods, drought, fires and even the frightening possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, but within our reach, is joy.”
Meanwhile the Anglican Dean of Hobart, Richard Humphrey, gave a nod to Donald Trump in a politically-themed Christmas video in which he wore a red Make Christmas Great Again cap, a play on Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan.
He told the ABC that people needed to turn away from fake news and towards “the really good news of Christmas”.
But he also urged Tasmanian premier Will Hodgman to tackle pokies-related harm. With the state due to head to an election in May, the state’s opposition leader Rebecca White said if elected Labor would commit to removing poker machines from pubs and clubs, and would give notice that the current deed allowing poker machines in venues other than casinos would not be extended beyond 2023.
“It is all very well for our premier to be saying that we should be able to celebrate Christmas, but we need to make room in the inn for there to be no pokies as well, these kind of things are related,” Humphrey said.
“We think the damage that is being done by pokies in some of our poorest and most needy suburbs needs to be addressed.”
Dr Glenn Davies, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, turned to Twitter to deliver his Christmas message this year.
“In short – a baby born in a shed saves the world #canyoubelieveit,” his message said.