The Catholic Church in England and Wales has launched an initiative to bring lapsed Catholics back to church.
The 'Come Home for Christmas" campaign is spearheaded by Deacon Stephen Boulter, a father of three and a former member of the Royal Air Force who currently serves a parish in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire.
Deacon Boulter appealed to those who had not visited church for a long time. He encouraged those feeling guilt not to let their self-doubt prevent them from returning to Christian practice.
""Catholic guilt" is, of course, notorious, but we must ask ourselves where it really comes from. Certainly not from Christ, who was known for his welcome to sinners, and for unforgettable stories like the Prodigal Son returning to a lavish welcome," he said.
"Whatever the reason you stopped practicing your Catholic faith in the past, you can be sure of a warm welcome should you decide to start again. Many people return to the Church after a period of time, as they sense a spiritual emptiness in their lives which only Christ can fill, and they often find that not only have they changed, but the Church has developed also," continued Deacon Boulter.
Bishop of Nottingham Malcom McMahon had these words for lapsed Catholics: "My dear friends, whatever your situation or circumstances; however much time has lapsed since your last visit to a church, there is a place for you. The door is open and you are very welcome. You might have questions to ask which is good. We are happy to try to answer them and listen to your story. The Church will not judge you. Come."
The Come Home for Christmas website can be found at http://www.comehomeforchristmas.co.uk/