Ireland’s newest and youngest Catholic bishop has quoted from the gospel according to Bono, in his first Christmas message this week.
The only Catholic bishop consecrated on the island of Ireland since the Covid-19 pandemic began, Bishop Paul Dempsey of Achonry (49) was installed at the Cathedral of the Annunciation and St Nathy, Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon on August 30th.
He recalled hearing “an eminent medical person on the radio last week raising concerns about the rising number of Covid cases. He suggested Christmas should be postponed until spring. As a medic his first concern is the health and wellbeing of people. However, it illustrates that for many, Christmas has become a mere holiday period rather than the celebration of Christ’s birth.”
In contrast, Bishop Dempsey recalled hearing the U2 frontman interviewed at the end of the last Late Late Show of the year, where Irish musicians came together to raise funds for the Simon Community. "He posed a basic, but very important question, 'What is this Christmas thing about?'"
Bishop Dempsey said Bono recalled deeply listening at a carol service one year and “he received an insight into the heart of Christmas” when thinking of the child born in straw. He quoted the singer as saying: “If you believe this story, which I do, of unknowable power expressed as utter powerlessness, it really struck me. The divinity of people who are vulnerable and poor, that is what Christmas is about, it’s not about anything else’.”
Bishop Dempsey said that “personally, I found it refreshing to hear someone with Bono’s fame, name the essence of what Christmas is truly about, something, in my opinion, which has been notably absent in recent times”.
Meanwhile, the Church of Ireland has produced choral tracks of carols for churches to use in services over the Christmas period as "live" choral singing is not allowed by pandemic restrictions.
The downloadable recordings of carols and anthems are available at churchmusicdublin.org.