A Catholic priest who ministers in Co Fermanagh has called for the Church to accept that it has “lost Christmas” and abandon the word altogether.
Father Desmond O’Donnell, who has a congregation in Cleenish Parish near Enniskillen, has urged Christians, no matter the denomination, to accept that the term ‘Christmas’ had been shorn of any sacred meaning.
“We’ve lost Christmas, just like we lost Easter, and should abandon the word completely,” he argued.
“We need to let it go, it’s already been hijacked and we just need to recognise and accept that.”
Fr O’Donnell, who worked in Australia for 28 years, insisted he was not a Scrooge, and did not wish to deny non-believers their festive celebrations.
“I am not seeking to take anything away from anyone, I am simply asking that space be preserved for believers for whom Christmas has nothing to do with Santa and Reindeer,” he added.
“My religious experience of true Christmas, like so many others, is very deep and real – like the air I breathe.
“But non-believers deserve and need their celebration too, it’s an essential human dynamic and we all need that in the toughness of life.”
A biblical scholar and psychologist, he even quoted from the Psalms to argue that a little bit of wine makes the heart rejoice.
“I’m all for Christians choosing to celebrate Christmas by going out for meals and enjoying a glass of wine, but the commercialisation of anything is never good,” he said.
“I’m just trying to rescue the reality of Christmas for believers by giving up ‘Christmas’ and replacing it with another word.”
The clergyman, whose latest book To Love And To Be Loved was published in September, admitted that he wasn’t hopeful about the sacred institution being willing to change, but warned that its refusal to do so will have consequences.
“It will mean that secularisation and modern life will continue to launder the Church,” he said.
“It will start to institutionally break down, I’ve already seen it happening around the world in Malta, Poland and Uruguay, and it’s starting to happen in Ireland.
“It’s like watching the same movie over and over again – the Protestant Churches are battling too.”
The Oblate priest, who is based in Dublin, added: “For many people God is just a word representing someone to blame in their calamity or a crutch to lean on in a time of distress, and the reality is that ‘Christmas’ no longer means Christmas.”