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“Christmas is a time for family life”: Cardinal Farrell

By Sarah Mac Donald - 28 December, 2016

Bishop Kevin Farrell

The Prefect of the Vatican’s new Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life has urged people to think about why Christmas is celebrated and God’s reason for wishing to be part of our lives and our existence.

In an interview with the Irish Independent newspaper, Dublin-born prelate Cardinal Kevin Farrell described Christmas as a time for family life.

He told the newspaper that the one great gift that we can all give each other over Christmas is “a little compassion, a little kindness, a little understanding and a little mercy for all of our brothers and sisters – no matter who they are or where they come from or what language they speak”.

The 69-year-old continued, “Christmas is a time for us all to open up our hearts to those who are closest to us. So often we go through life bearing a grudge. Let us remember that we are all human beings, we are all the same flesh and blood and we’re all created by the same God. We are brothers and sisters and we should treat each other as such. I think that is the greatest gift we can give to each other.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Cardinal Farrell, who is working with the President of the World Meeting of Families 2018, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, to prepare for the gathering in August 2018, said he believed Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland would change some of the negativity here towards the Catholic Church.

“I think Pope Francis will change things; I think people will see his authenticity. He is clearly a man of God and he will attract people to think in those terms again. He is a person who inspires all of us to do something good for the Church and for people.”

The former bishop of Dallas who was elevated to the cardinalate in November said he thought the “whole question of family life is also very dear to Irish people even today in the changing environment of the world and of Ireland. Family life is an important part of the culture of Ireland. I think that is what Pope Francis wishes to convey to the people of Ireland by having this world gathering of families here.”

When Pope Francis called Cardinal Farrell on the telephone last May to offer him the role of Prefect of the new Department for Laity, Family and Life, the Cardinal said he was “just completely shocked”.

“He called me on the telephone and started to talk to me about coming to Rome to set up this new dicastery. I didn’t know what to say or what to respond. I had been most of my life involved in promoting laity within dioceses and within my own diocese in Dallas in Texas. From that to then come to Rome was a complete surprise. You can’t imagine how shocked I was.”

The Drimnagh-born prelate travelled to Rome to meet Pope Francis and tried to convince him not to appoint him, saying he was too old for the job.

“He was very welcoming to me, very caring about it and he understood what it was like to leave a diocese – to leave where you had worked for most of your life. At 69 years of age I didn’t think of moving anywhere. I kept telling him that I was too old for the job, but he kept reminding me that he was 75 years of age when he was elected Pope and he had to leave Argentina. We had a conversation for about an hour and a half and the rest is history. Here I am.”

Cardinal Kevin’s older brother, Bishop Brian Farrell (73), also works for the Vatican as Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome. This is the first time the two have worked together in the same country since ordination.

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