Wales’ two Archbishops have come together for the first time to issue a joint message, inviting people to come back to church this Christmas.
The Anglican Archbishop of Wales, Andrew John, has joined with the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff and Bishop of Menevia, Mark O’Toole, to offer an invitation to church this Christmas, saying despite “difficulty and despair”, this year, “there have been flickers of light in the darkness”.
The two Archbishops offer examples such as, “The kindness of a neighbour continuing friendships that grew out of the pandemic… Millions of people honouring the memory of a self-less and dedicated Queen. Schools, churches and other community organisations welcoming refugees with open arms into their places of sanctuary.”
The two Archbishops, both of whom are relatively new in their role, have struck up a good working relationship over the past year. They wanted to encourage the people of Wales, saying even though “we have met many challenges” over the year, “a warm welcome – Croeso – awaits you” at churches across the country.
Their message starts with a heart-warming tale of the writing of the well-known carol Silent Night encouraging people to remember that sometimes events which begin “tumultuously” or “in fear” can end “with a melody of peace”.
Their statement ends: “The true message of Christmas can sometimes be forgotten in the lead up to the 25th December with the busyness of preparations, cooking, shopping and wrapping presents. Why not come to Church this Christmas to place the Prince of Peace at the centre once more?”
You can read the full message in Welsh (Cymraeg) here.
On 24 December 1818, Joseph Mohr, a young priest from a small town in Austria met with Franz Xavez Gruber, a local schoolmaster and organist, to share a poem he had written called ‘Stille Nacht’. Fr Joseph had asked Gruber to put the words to music in the hope that the newly composed song could be performed later in the parish church as the townspeople celebrated the coming of Jesus Christ on Christmas Eve. Whilst Gruber managed to compose a melody in just half a day, when they reached the church, they realised that the organ had been destroyed by mice. There was no way that the organ could be fixed before the service. They were both in despair.
But in the quiet of the evening, after the church service was over, Mohr found a guitar and, in harmony with Gruber, they gently sang their song for the first time. The congregation, in awe of the arrangement, joined them as they sang the chorus: ‘sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace’. An evening that began in disaster, ended with a melody of peace.
Much like the story of ‘Silent Night’, the Christmas story also begins tumultuously. When Mary and Joseph travelled the long and arduous journey to Bethlehem, with blistered feet, tired eyes, and a brand-new baby on the way, they needed somewhere to rest. In the Gospel of Luke, we hear that there was no room available for them. Yet, in the darkness of the night overlooked by an eastern star, God was made incarnate. An evening that began in fear, ended with the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Over the past year we have met many challenges. People are still grappling with the effects of the coronavirus. Conflicts rage on in many countries across the world. Compounding this, the cost of living crisis is pushing many deeper into poverty as they struggle with day-to-day living costs. We mourned the loss of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Still, in these moments of difficulty and despair, there have been flickers of light in the darkness. The kindness of a neighbour continuing friendships that grew out of the pandemic, buying groceries for someone down the road. Millions of people honouring the memory of a self-less and dedicated Queen. Schools, churches and other community organisations welcoming refugees with open arms into their places of sanctuary. Here in Wales especially we want to be known as a place of sanctuary, a land of peace. The true message of Christmas can sometimes be forgotten in the lead up to the 25 December with the busyness of preparations, cooking, shopping and wrapping presents. Why not come to Church this Christmas to place the Prince of Peace at the centre once more? A warm welcome – Croeso – awaits you. A Happy and Blessed Christmas to you all!
Archbishop Mark O’Toole
Archbishop of Cardiff
Bishop of Menevia
Archbishop Andrew John
Archbishop of Wales
Bishop of Bangor
The Most Reverend Andrew John was announced as Archbishop of Wales on 6 December 2021 and enthroned on 30 April 2022. The Most Reverend Mark O’Toole was installed as Archbishop of Cardiff on 20 June 2022.
The Church in Wales is an autonomous province of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Archdiocese of Cardiff is the Catholic Metropolitan See which comprises of Wales and Herefordshire in England.