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Say prayers for refugees, urges bishop

Canberra's Anglican bishop has used his Christmas message to criticise the federal government's treatment of refugees.

The Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Stuart Robinson, said Jesus's experience of being born to homeless travellers, who were soon to become refugees, was a reminder of the need to be mindful of the plight of asylum seekers.

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The bishop said policy on asylum seekers was complicated by the need to discourage people from risking their lives by making dangerous sea crossings.

''Yet, it should concern all Australians that recently implemented policies have yet to make an impact on this score,'' Bishop Robinson said.


''I am not aware of evidence that suggests the number of people taking the dangerous journey by sea is decreasing.

''It appears that the Nauru site was not ready to take asylum seekers when it opened.

''The fear is that this will cause further harm and suffering to already damaged people.''

Bishop Robinson said he was concerned that new arrangements adopted by the Gillard government could be diluting Australia's responsibility for the well-being of asylum seekers.

''My prayer this Christmas is that arrangements are put in place in 2013 to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated,'' he said.

''Please do pray for our leaders and policymakers for wisdom, generosity and godly empathy.''

Bishop Robinson said that when Jesus was born, God had given him to us as a means to rescue people from evil and usher in a reign of peace and joy.

''Christmas remind us of the generous love of God. And that is our template for action: generosity, selflessness, grace,'' he said.

Monsignor John Woods, the administrator of the Catholic archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, urged his parishioners to reflect on the nativity scene in quiet wonder.

''Reclaim your lost innocence in the eyes of a baby, so powerless and yet so engaging.

''The eyes of that baby smile on all of us and on Calvary that will look on both a good and bad thief.''

Monsignor Woods also reflected on the child sexual abuse scandals that had led to the formation of a royal commission, and on the school shooting massacre at Newtown in the United States.

''To claim our dignity in Christ and to afford others their dignity is to be formed in a healthy community,'' Monsignor Woods said.

''To deny that dignity through child sexual abuse, or any act of unmitigated violence such as the recent shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, does not invalidate the message of Christmas but it does call for a more engaging witness to it in truth and love.

''One hopes that our royal commission into child sexual abuse and the call for gun law reform in the US will enhance the dignity of all.''

Monsignor Woods said he hoped that people truly celebrated Christmas.

''That God is with us. As we do so, might we pause and give thanks for who we are and for this often crazy yet beautiful world to which God in Christ said 'yes','' Monsignor Woods said.