Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Diocese of Meath donates €25,000 for victims of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti

Image result for bishop michael smithBishop Michael Smith, Bishop of Meath, has sent a donation of €25,000 to aid victims of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. 

The donation included a number of contributions from parishes in the Diocese of Meath eager to express solidarity with the people of Haiti.

Hurricane Matthew made landfall on Haiti early on Tuesday 4 October 2016. 

It was the strongest storm to hit the region in more than 50 years. 

As many as 900 people have been killed and tens of thousands of homes destroyed in Haiti as a result of the hurricane. 

The overall devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew is becoming more clear as aid workers are starting to reach more remote areas.

The contribution from the Diocese of Meath was given to Archbishop Eugene Nugent, the Irish-born Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti. 

Archbishop Nugent said “I will be happy to forward this generous gift from Meath Diocese to the four Bishops whose Dioceses have been worst affected by Hurricane Matthew.”

Archbishop Nugent is working closely with Catholic Relief Services who are responding in some of the most affected areas in southern Haiti. 

Outside of immediate food, the greatest needs are for shelter, water and hygiene supplies.

Click here for a five-minute video featuring Archbishop Nugent, which reports on the efforts of Catholic Relief Services to respond to the devastation.

Pope to global economic leaders: Remember the dignity of the human person

Pope Francis blesses the sick and disabled at the general audience at the Paul VI Hall in Vatican City on November 30, 2016. Credit: Lucia Ballester/CNA.In an unprecedented event, Fortune 500 CEOs, members of the Time 100 and non-profit, academic, religious and labor leaders from throughout the world met in Rome to address the need for a global economic system that both encourages growth and aids the poor.
The two-day forum focused on the theme “The 21st Century Challenge: Forging a New Social Compact.” 

Inspired by Pope Francis’ continual call to help the poor and marginalized, the thought and business leaders discussed practical solutions to creating an inclusive and more humane economy and how to help eliminate poverty and the refugee problem around the world.

On the last day, Pope Francis addressed the leaders, thanking them for their work and encouraging them to keep the human person at the center of their solutions. 

“I would like to offer a particular word of thanks for all that you are doing to promote the centrality and dignity of the human person within our institutions and economic models, and to draw attention to the plight of the poor and refugees, who are so often forgotten by society,” the Holy Father said.

“When we ignore the cries of so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, we not only deny them their God-given rights and worth, but we also reject their wisdom and prevent them from offering their talents, traditions and cultures to the world.”

This then further impoverishes us all, the Pope said, because we are morally and spiritually impoverished when we reject the least among us.

Solutions for humane economic renewal and growth call for both institutional and personal conversion and generosity to those in need, the Pope told the group. Therefore, the work begun at the forum is only the beginning.

Francis also encouraged those at the forum to involve those that they seek to help in their quest for solutions. 

“...involve in your efforts those whom you seek to help; give them a voice, listen to their stories, learn from their experiences and understand their needs. See in them a brother and a sister, a son and a daughter, a mother and a father. Amid the challenges of our day, see the human face of those you earnestly seek to help,” he said.

Although there is “great unrest” throughout the world today due to inequality, poverty, war and migration, the Pope said the forum gave him hope because the first step to solving a problem is to recognize that a problem exists.

“For when we finally recognize the evil in our midst, we can seek healing by applying the remedy. Your very presence here today is a sign of such hope, because it shows that you recognize the issues before us and the imperative to act decisively.”

The Pope concluded by assuring the group of his prayers and of the Catholic Church’s ongoing commitment to also help “those who otherwise are silenced.”

Pope Francis' letter to dying girl read aloud at her funeral

Pope Francis during the Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum in Rome, Italy on April 3, 2015. Credit: L'Osservatore Romano.Pope Francis has again captured the hearts of the world, with a tear-jerking letter to a young Italian girl dying from cancer, which was read aloud at the girl’s funeral once she passed away.
“Dear Paolina, your photos are on my desk, because in your very special gaze I see the light of goodness and innocence. Thank you for sending them to me!” the Pope said at the beginning of his letter.

He instructed the girl to “read this letter together with your mother, and the kiss she will now give you will be the kiss of the Pope.” 

Originally published on the Italian website “Il Faro di Roma,” the letter was dated Sept. 22 and addressed to 10-year-old Paolina Libraro, who was suffering from an advanced form of cancer.

The girl’s mother had written to the Pope asking him to bless and pray for her daughter. 

In response, Francis sent his letter with a special VIP ticket for his Oct. 26 general audience, where he would have given her the blessing in person.

However, Paolina, who is from the southeast Italian city of Massafra, was too ill and weak to travel as the audience drew near, and so she couldn’t make the trip to Rome. 

She passed away Nov. 22 and was buried the same day.

The funeral Mass was held at the Church of St. Leopold Mandic and was presided over by Fr. Michele Quaranta. 

Nearly the entire town was present, including the city’s mayor, Fabrizio Quarto.

During his homily, Fr. Quaranta read aloud the Pope’s letter, which reassured Paolina that “I unite my hands to yours and to those who are praying for you.”

“In this way we will make a long chain that, I am sure, will reach heaven,” Pope Francis said in the letter, and told the girl to remember “that the first link in this chain is you, because you have Jesus in your heart! Remember it!”

He told her to speak to Jesus not only about herself, but also about her parents, “who need so much to be helped and comforted in front of the difficult steps they are facing.” 

“You will certainly be very good at suggesting to Jesus what to do for them,” the Pope said, and asked Paolina to also tell Jesus “what he must to for me too, while I will remind him what he must do for you.”

“I give you a very strong hug and I bless you with my whole heart, together with your parents and your loved ones,” he said, and signed the letter himself.

Pope Francis is known to make personal phone calls and send personal messages to those who contact him, often to the surprise of the one who receives his letter or hears his voice on the other end of the line.

The Pope is also known to carry several objects in his pocket that he considers special or important, including a rosary and pocket-sized Way of the Cross.

Another thing the Pope said he keeps on his desk because it touched his heart is a picture given to him by a child during his daytrip to the Greek island of Lesbos. 

It depicts several people drowning beside a capsized boat as the sun above them cries tears of blood.

Euthanasia of alcoholic father sends 'dangerous' message

Image result for euthanasiaA doctor in the Netherlands performed euthanasia on a 41 year-old father of two who claimed his alcoholism had made his life unbearable.
Mark Langedijk, who also suffered from depression and anxiety, was found eligible for a controversial application of the euthanasia laws of the country.  
Langedijk was euthanized by his general physician in his home on July 14 of this year. His brother, Marcel, recently wrote about Mark’s decision to die in an article published in the Dutch magazine “Linda.”
Marcel wrote that Mark had a “happy childhood” and loving parents, but developed an addiction to alcohol eight years ago. Since then, he has been in and out of rehabilitation 21 different times.
Although his parents had been hopeful for a recovery, Mark declared that he wanted to end his life.
His application for euthanasia was approved by a doctor from the Support and Consultation on Euthanasia in the Netherlands. A 2000 law permits euthanasia in the country for people who are experiencing “unbearable suffering” that is considered incurable.
The extension of euthanasia to Mark was met with sharp criticism from many who said that he should have been offered treatment and support for his depression and anxiety, rather than suicide. 

Fiona Bruce, a Conservative British MP, told the Daily Mail that Landedijk's death was "deeply concerning and yet another reason why assisted suicide and euthanasia must never be introduced into the UK".
“What someone suffering from alcoholism needs is support and treatment to get better from their addiction – which can be provided – not to be euthanized," she said.
“It is once again a troubling sign of how legalised euthanasia undermines in other countries the treatment and help the most vulnerable should receive.”
Robert Flello, a Labour MP and a Catholic, said: “Yet again Holland demonstrates it is a dangerous place to have any physical or mental illness, to be struggling with any life challenges, or just to differ from what they might call normal.”
“The state-authorised killing of their citizens is out of control and is, quite frankly, terrifying.”  
This case is not the first time the expansive assisted suicide and euthanasia laws of the Netherlands have come under fire. Earlier this year, many critics protested when a young woman in her 20s, who was suffering from PTSD and depression following sexual abuse, was euthanized.
Dr. Greg Bottaro, a clinical psychologist with the CatholicPsych Institute, told CNA at the time that the case sent a “devastating” message to other people struggling with mental illness.
“...by putting this out there in this public mindset, it calls into question even more the people who are in despair and it gives them greater reason to believe that it's worth giving up,” he said.
In May of this year, the Dutch government yet again came under fire when the health and justice ministers announced their intent to extend euthanasia to people who “have a well-considered opinion that their life is complete, must, under strict and careful criteria, be allowed to finish that life in a manner dignified for them.”
The option would be limited to “the elderly,” though the briefing did not define an age limit. The “completed life” extension is expected to go into effect in the Netherlands by the end of 2017.
The push for legal euthanasia and assisted suicide has increased in Western countries in the past few years. In June of this year, Canada legalized physician-assisted suicide, as did the states of California and Colorado, joining the states of Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont.
Also in June of this year, Pope Francis denounced physician-assisted suicide as part of a “throwaway culture” that offers a “false compassion” and treats a human person as a problem. Addressing medical professionals from Spain and Latin America at the Vatican, the Pope criticized “those who hide behind an alleged compassion to justify and approve the death of a patient.”
“True compassion does not marginalize anyone, nor does it humiliate and exclude – much less considers the disappearance of a person as a good thing.”

Vatican weighs in on power, limits of artificial intelligence

Image result for Pontifical Academy for SciencesThis past week the Vatican hosted a high-level discussion in the world of science, gathering experts to discuss the progress, benefits and limits of advances in artificial intelligence.
A new conference at the Vatican drew experts in various fields of science and technology for a two-day dialogue on the “Power and Limits of Artificial Intelligence,” hosted by the Pontifical Academy for Sciences.

Among the scheduled speakers were several prestigious scientists, including Stephen Hawkins, a prominent British professor at the University of Cambridge and a self-proclaimed atheist, as well as a number of major tech heads such as Demis Hassabis, CEO of Google DeepMind, and Yann LeCun of Facebook.

The event, which ran from Nov. 30-Dec. 1, was hosted at the Vatican's Casina Pio IV, the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences, which is headed by their chancellor, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo.

Werner Arber, a Protestant and president of the academy who works in the field of evolutionary biology, said that while artificial intelligence isn't his specific area, it's important for the Vatican entity to have a voice in the discussion, since their task is “to follow all actual developments in the field of natural sciences” in order to stimulate further research.

As far as the discussion on artificial intelligence is concerned, Arber said it's important to understand current developments, which include increasing dialogue as to whether research done on natural sciences can then be applied to the field of machinery and robotics.

Part of the debate, he said, has been whether or not machines could eventually take on some of the work human beings have traditionally done. However, he cautioned that there would be some “social-scientific implications,” since this could eventually lead to less work for people.

This is “an ethical aspect, do we want that or not?” Arber said, noting that human beings have a unique thinking and problem-solving capacity, and “it’s not good” if this gets pushed too far to the side.

It's a “very important task of our human life...so we have to be careful to preserve our duties,” he said. 

Also present at the meeting was Demis Hassabis, CEO of British artificial intelligence company DeepMind, founded in 2010 and acquired by Google in 2014. He spoke on the first day of the conference about the possibility of moving forward “Towards Artificial General Intelligence.”

Part of Hassabis' work involves the science of “making machines smarter,” and trying to build learning systems that allow computer systems to learn directly from data and experience in order to eventually figure out tasks on their own.

In comments to CNA, he noted how he has established an ethics board at the company to ensure that things don’t get out of hand while research is moving forward.

Artificial intelligence “is a very powerful technology,” he said, explaining that while he believes technologies in and of themselves are neutral, “it depends on what you end up using that technology for.”

“So I think as a society we need to think very carefully about the ethical use of technologies, and as one of the developers of this kind of artificial intelligence technology we want to be at the forefront of thinking how to use it responsibly for the good of everyone in the world,” he said.

One of the ways his company's work is currently effecting Google is through little things such as how to organize photos and recognize what’s in them, as well as the way a person’s phone speaks to them and the optimization of energy that Google’s data centers use.

Hassabis said he thinks it’s “really interesting” to see the wider Catholic community taking an interest in the discussion, and called the Church’s involvement a great way “to start talking about and debating” how artificial intelligence “will affect society and how we can best use it to benefit all of the society.”

Stanislas Dehaene, a professor cognitive neuroscience at the College de France and a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, was also present at the gathering, and spoke to participants on day two about “What is consciousness, and could machines have it?”

Dehaene told CNA/EWTN News that “enormous progress” has been made in terms of understanding the brain, and in part thanks to these advancements, great steps have also been taken in modeling neuro-networks which eventually lead “to superb artificial intelligence systems.”

With a lot of research currently being done on consciousness, Dehaene said a true “science of consciousness” has developed to the point that what happens to the brain when it becomes aware of a piece of information is now known “to such a point that it can be modeled.”

“So the question is could it be put in computers?” he said, explaining that this is currently being studied. He said he personally doesn’t know yet whether there is a limit to the possibilities for artificial intelligence, or what it would be.

However, he stressed that “it's very important” to consider how further advances in artificial intelligence “will modify society, how far can it go and what are the consequences for all of us, for our jobs in particular,” he said.

Part of the discussion that needs to take place, Dehaene said, is “how to put ethical controls in the machines so they respect the laws and they respect even the moral laws” that guide human decisions.

“That is an extremely important goal that has not been achieved yet,” he said, adding that while he personally doesn’t have a problem with a machine making ethical judgments similar to that of a human being, the question “is how to get there” and how to make sure “we don't create a system that is full of machines that don’t look like humans, that don’t share our intuitions of what should be a better world.”

Another major tech head present for the conference was Professor Yann LeCun, Director of Artificial Intelligence Research at Facebook. 

What they try to do at Facebook is to “push the state of the arts to make machines more intelligent,” LeCun told CNA. The reason for this, he said, is that people are increasingly interacting through machines.

Artificial intelligence “would be a crucial key technology to facilitate communication between people,” he said, since the company’s main focus “is connecting people and we think that artificial intelligence has a big role to play there.”

Giving an example, LeCun noted that every day Facebook users upload around 1 billion photos and that each of them are recognized, and artificial intelligence systems then monitor the content of the photo in order to show users more images they might be interested in, or filter those they might object to.

“It also enables the visually impaired to get a textual description of the image that they can't see,” he said, “so that is very useful.”

In terms of how this technology might transform the way we live, LeCun said that within the next few years or even decades, “there will be transformative applications” of artificial intelligence visible and accessible to everyone.

Self-driving cars, the ability to call a car from your smartphone instead of owning one, no parking lots and safer transportation are all things the LeCun said he can see on the horizon, with medical advances being another area of rapid growth.

“There are already prototype systems that have been demonstrated to be better than human radiologists at picking out cancerous tumors,” he said, explaining that this alongside a “host of other applications” are going to make “a big difference.”

When it comes to the ethics of the discussion, LeCun noted that there are both short-term and long-term concerns, such as “are robots gonna take over the world?”

“Frankly these are questions that we are not worried about right now because we just don't have the technology that's anywhere near the kind of power that's required. So these are philosophical discussions but not immediate problems,” he said.

However, short-term debate points include how to make the artificial intelligence systems that already exist safer and more reliable.

LeCun noted that he has helped set up a discussion forum called “Partnership for AI” that was co-founded by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM in order to facilitate discussion on the best ways to deploy artificial intelligence.

Both ethical and technical questions are brought up, he said, noting that since it's a public forum, anyone from different fields such as academia, the government, social scientists and ethicists are able to participate and offer their contributions.

Church apology for a 14-year sexual relationship an Australian first

Just after 10am on Sunday, inside Victoria's oldest and busiest Catholic church, the congregation heard something extraordinarily rare.

A senior church official told those seated in the pews at St Francis on Lonsdale Street that their one-time priest, Tom Knowles, has become the first in Australia to be defrocked for having a "long-term inappropriate sexual relationship" with a woman.

The church official also said sorry to that woman in public.

"On behalf of the Australian Province of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation, I wish to apologise to Jennifer Herrick for the pain and suffering she experienced," reads a copy of the apology, which has been obtained by Fairfax Media.

Ms Herrick was not be at the service. 

She lives in another state and finds the idea of being there traumatic.

The public apology is the culmination of a seven-year battle Ms Herrick has waged against the Catholic Church to obtain redress for an ordeal that began when she was a vulnerable young woman with a disability in Sydney. 

Knowles, who was later to become the Australian head of his order, was working there as a priest. 

Ms Herrick's story was first told publicly in early 2013 when Fairfax Media revealed how the church had first stood down, and then reinstated Knowles despite evidence he had sexually preyed upon Ms Herrick for 14 years.

It encapsulates a critical question to arise from abuse scandals involving religious institutions: how should the church and the state make amends?  

Ms Herrick and another victim, former Melbourne schoolboy Marcus Lindsay, have decided to tell their stories to highlight the ongoing struggle and uncertainty that some victims face.

Ms Herrick was a shy 19-year-old with bilateral congenital hip dysplasia – a condition causing her to walk with a highly abnormal gait – when Knowles, who was her family's priest, cultivated a relationship with her at his church, Our Lady of Dolours, in Chatswood, Sydney. 

Subsequent psychological reports assert she was being groomed.

When she turned 22, Ms Herrick allowed Father Knowles, who as a Catholic priest had taken a vow of celibacy, to have sex with her during a 14-year period. 

The sex was often hurried, aggressive and sometimes painful. 

And she told no one about it. 

In a report, Ms Herrick's psychologist, Ana Grant, said the priest's conduct had caused her patient serious post-traumatic stress disorder and fell "within the criteria for clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse".

The apology in St Francis in Melbourne's CBD on Sunday, along with a confidential payout, was offered recently to Herrick to settle court action she launched against Knowles and three senior members of his Catholic order in mid-2013. 

The church initially sought to block her case by using the controversial "Ellis defence" – a legal precedent that means the church is not liable for the conduct of a priest. 

The church also argued that Ms Herrick's case lacked merit, as she had previously accepted a confidential settlement as part of the Towards Healing process, an internal complaint handling system run by the Catholic Church.

But Ms Herrick insists she was under "extreme duress" when she initially signed a settlement with the church in late 2011. 

As with many of the cases reviewed by the Royal Commission, Ms Herrick says that the settlement was on terms dictated by the church, rather than those of the victim. 

She says it did not acknowledge the tremendous impact of Knowles' conduct on her life, a claim reinforced by the decision of the church to allow Knowles to return to work as a priest in 2013. 

That decision was over-ruled by Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart when the Sunday Age ran a front page photo of Knowles delivering mass. 

Ms Herrick's story ran alongside that picture. 

Last year, as Herrick battled on in the NSW Supreme Court, Knowles was quietly "laicised" – defrocked – though Ms Herrick only discovered this by accident. 

That decision has not been made public until now. 

Ms Herrick says she agreed to settle her court action in return for a public apology in church and further compensation. 

"It was the church's attitude - and their refusal to accept that I was abused - that prompted me to fight.  I decided they needed to be accountable. They just wanted to give me some money and for me to go away," she says now.

Ms Herrick believes there may be many vulnerable women who have been abused by priests but who have never come forward. 

"I also took the case forward on behalf of those women," she says.

Kiwi nun takes step forward to sainthood in the Catholic Church

Image result for Suzanne Aubert, the founder of the Sisters of CompassionSuzanne Aubert, the founder of the Sisters of Compassion New Zealand's home grown order of sisters, has been declared "venerable", a milestone on the path to sainthood in the Catholic Church.
The announcement was made from Rome by Pope Francis.
If the Cause for Sainthood is successful, she will be New Zealand's first saint, says Cardinal John Dew
"She was a remarkable woman who devoted her life to helping others. She was a pioneer of New Zealand's health and welfare system and a friend to Maori throughout her life. Her tireless compassion and practical brand of Christianity made a huge impact on New Zealand society."
Sister Suzanne came to New Zealand from France in 1860 and spent most of her life here, fully identifying with her adopted country.

"Suzanne Aubert was ahead of her time, promoting the rights of women and Maori in the nineteenth century," said Cardinal Dew. "Her care for infants, young children, their mothers and families, and her practical concern for the incurably sick and unemployed was legendary."
Being declared venerable is a major step towards sainthood in the Catholic Church, says Maurice Carmody, the promoter of her canonisation cause.
"The next stage involves the recognition of a miracle attributed to Suzanne, such as recovery from a terminal illness as a result of prayer. She can then be declared 'Blessed' by the Pope. A second miracle and proof that she is a model for the universal church will enable her to be canonised as a saint," Dr Carmody said.
Sister Margaret Anne, congregational leader for the Sisters of Compassion, says the news from Rome is very exciting for the Sisters of Compassion and for all of New Zealand.
She died in 1926, at the age of 91.
Sister Suzanne was a woman of many talents. She had an in-depth knowledge of Maori herbal remedies which she combined with her medical training to develop 'Mother Aubert' herbal medicines. These were hugely popular throughout New Zealand.
She was also expert in Maori language and tikanga, and developed a Maori-English dictionary which became a reference text for decades.
Her legacy lives on in the work of the Sisters of Compassion. 

The sisters are still engaged in social work, pastoral care, prison and hospital chaplaincies, education, working with disadvantaged migrant communities, and care of the sick and the elderly.
They run the Soup Kitchen in Tory Street, Wellington and a dementia care unit in Upper Hutt and a housing support programme in Lower Hutt.

Irish photographer turns his stunning pics into Christmas cards for Syrian people

Former war photographer Padraig Grant decided he could no longer stand idly by and do nothing for Syria and its people.

The Co Wexford-based photographer took the simple step of making some of his photographs into Christmas cards, with all proceeds going to the White Helmets.

Nobel Peace Prize-nominated, the White Helmets are a group of volunteer rescue workers who have saved more than 70,000 lives in Syria. They are also the subject of the widely-watched Netflix documentary, of the same name.

“Back in 2001 I was on a tour of the Middle East, including to the Lebanon and the Kurdish parts of Turkey. I just found the Syrians so welcoming. You’d be on the bus and get talking to them and the next thing they’d invite you back to their house for tea. They were the friendliest people I’d ever met.

“You’ve got to do something so [I came up with] the Christmas cards. It’s a simple and quick thing to do,” he says.

He also covered civil wars in Africa during his time as a war photographer providing photos to international newspapers.

“I covered the civil war in South Sudan in 1989. I would hook up with aid agencies like Goal. I was also in Rwanda for the genocide in 1994 and Goal was there collecting bodies from the streets,” he said.

“When you see people doing that, like the White Helmets in Syria running towards and not away from bombs, that’s when you need to do something.

“You can only look at something so long and not do something about it.”

Spectrum Art and Framing in Wexford are sponsoring the materials to make the cards, which are being sold for €15 for five.

The cards are available to purchase on his website  www.padraiggrant.com 

Cork SVP has no cash for first time in 40 years

St Vincent de Paul in Cork has no money in the bank for the first time in more than 40 years as its multi-million ‘rainy day’ fund has dried up.

In 2008, the Cork charity had a cash reserve of at least €4m but over the past seven years this fund was called upon repeatedly as the charity tried to cope with the “unprecedented rise in calls for help”.

Despite the country’s improved economic figures, St Vincent de Paul in Cork expects it will send out three times more Christmas Day hampers this year than last.

Requests for help have increased by 10% this year compared to last year, according to the regional vice president for the south west Brendan Dempsey. Last year also saw a 10% increase on 2014.

“We are not seeing any signs of an upturn. If anything it’s getting worse for many people,” he said.

Already, the charity has requests for 3,500 Christmas Day hampers.

This figure is expecting to grow significantly over the next three weeks. 

Last year, the charity sent out 1,200 hampers on Christmas day.

Also, for the first time in its history, St Vincent de Paul is not seeking toys this Christmas
It is asking solely for food donations as it has been overwhelmed with requests for help with groceries.

“Many of the couples that we are helping are well-educated people who worked hard all their lives, created jobs and were well able to look after themselves,” said Mr Dempsey.

“They are a section that we were able to turn to for help but now we are helping them.”

He said he would like to invite Taoiseach Enda Kenny to visit Cork and see “our work at the coalface”.

“Upturn? What upturn? It’s worse than it’s ever been,” he said. “We have never been so dependant on donations and church collection. Up until April this year we always had money in the bank but now that’s gone and the requests for help keep growing and growing. We are now living week to week.

“I’d like Enda Kenny to meet us in Cork and see some of the desperation that we see every night of the week.”

VM Ware and EMC-Dell staff were at St Vincent de Paul’s warehouse yesterday filling up 1,600 hampers with dry food such as porridge, peas, and beans.

In the days before Christmas, these will be topped up with perishable food such as chickens, ham, pork chops, potatoes, and eggs so they can be distributed on Christmas Eve.