THE head of Australia's Catholic Church has used his Christmas message to apologise to those who "have suffered at the hands of fellow Christians".
While he stopped short of directly addressing the child sex abuse allegations which have engulfed the NSW Catholic clergy, Sydney Archbishop George Pell said he understood the "shock and shame felt across the community at these revelations of wrongdoing and crime".
"Where there is evil, there is less peace and sometimes no peace," Cardinal Pell said.
"My heart and the heart of all believers, of all people of good will to all those who can't find peace at this time, especially those who have suffered at the hands of fellow Christians, Christian officials, priests and religious teachers.
"I'm deeply sorry this has happened - it's completely contrary to Christ's teachings".
The comments came at the end of year where a seemingly endless stream of arrests over the abuse or cover-up of abuse in the NSW Catholic Clergy prompted the Federal Government to announce a royal commission.
The turning point came when senior NSW police officer Detective Inspector Peter Fox went public with claims senior clergy members and police had repeatedly covered up reports of child abuse in the NSW Hunter Valley.
At least 50 clergy members have since been arrested.
Cardinal Pell has repeatedly defended the Catholic Church's handling of allegations of widespread paedophilia.
He was publicly challenged in NSW Parliament by Catholic premier Barry O'Farrell for comments he made about admissions of child sex abuse remaining within the binds of the confessional.
Following the announcement of a royal commission last month Cardinal Pell said he was hopeful the process would separate real offences from "significantly exaggerated claims".
In Queensland, the Archbishop of Brisbane, the Most Reverend Mark Coleridge, said the story of Christmas was that God was not some distant deity but came in the flesh to live among us.
"If we want to know what God looks like, we look to Jesus. It's as simple as that. If we want to know what God wants us to be, we look to Jesus.''
"God didn't send a representative, an envoy or a go-between. God sent his own Son; in that sense, God came himself. And that's more than anyone was prepared for or expected.''
"These days, life is lived at such a fast pace that we do more and more, and yet are often left with the feeling that we achieve less and less.
"Our lives are full, but we can feel empty. Perhaps the question is not why are we on the run, but what are we running from? Are we parched because we thirst for meaning but can find little that is meaningful?
"Our existence is not some mere chance by-product of the Big Bang and the Dark Silence.
"Our existence, our conscious mind, our way of seeing, and hearing and reflecting, our way of making sense of the world, and our inherited wisdom reveal the reality of life.
"And the reality is this: We are made to hear the voice of our first and greatest love - our Creator, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is that Word of love - not in any abstract or fanciful way.
So let's look with fresh eyes at this mystery, this Christmas event. Let's unwrap the gift and contemplate the Giver. Jesus Christ reveals to you and to me and to every human being who we really are. There is no greater gift than that.''
A Christmas message from the Anglican Church
THE story of Christ's birth powerfully engages our imaginations. Wise men make a long journey by the leading of a star.
Shepherds praise God, angels sing, and the glory of the Lord shines around. In a manger and in great humility lies the Christ child, born of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We are reminded that, then as now, God enters into history to bring new life and hope. Even on the margins of the world and in obscurity-as in Bethlehem-God's future is always coming to birth by the power of the Spirit.
As King Herod found, this is a power that the rulers of the world can neither master nor resist.
It is easy to lose heart when we look upon our world. It seems society has become habitually cynical and mistrustful, our public discourse thin and impoverished.
So often we feel exhausted by endless marketing and material consumption. We are thirsting for a new spirit-new ideas, new generosity and a new gratitude for all we have and are.
Christmas is the time for new imagination.
Can we imagine that, even now-perhaps in obscurity-God's future is coming to birth by the power of the Spirit?
The renewal of our society and our own lives may be nearer than we thought. Let us discern its coming and greet it with great joy and gladness.
The Most Reverend Dr Phillip Aspinall, Primate
Anglican Church of Australia
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