Referring to the 800th anniversary of the nativity scene created by St Francis of Assisi in the Italian village of Greccio, Archbishop O’Regan says it typifies the ‘spirit of Christmas’.
“St Francis wanted people to join the story of their lives to that of the one he knew as Emmanual (God with us)”, he says.
“Recalling a visit he had made years before to Bethlehem in the Holy Land, he resolved to create a ‘living manger’.
“His idea was twofold. First, to discourage would-be pilgrims from going to Bethlehem, which was under the control of foreign forces.
“Second, his insight and genius for the simple recognised that people needed to ‘see salvation’ and how immediate and accessible it was for them.
“What we now call the crib was born then…sadly, again this year it is not safe to venture to Bethlehem. For the peace of the Holy Land we pray.”