"We're all in this together".
That's the message Australia's most famous Catholic priest, Father Bob Maguire, wants Australians to take to heart this Christmas.
The 82-year-old Melburnian says while Christmas has largely become about swapping presents, there's still time to embrace the real spirit of the season.
"We're all in this together. It's not God up here and us down here, we're in a circle, all in this together. We're either gonna work together and build a new world together, or we're all gonna go mad together," Maguire told ABC television on Saturday.
The colourful priest, ordained at 25 in 1965, says connecting with others is more important than ever amid increasingly lonely communities.
Maguire, who set up Open Family Australia as an outreach organisation for homeless and at-risk kids, says in 2017 his priority will be to combat sadness.
"It's where the suburbs are the places where young people get sad, some of them go mad, and some of those go bad. That's my formula for 2017 -- we've got to tackle sadness (especially) once that spreads throughout a suburb and throughout a migrant group."
One region he's particularly focused on is the urban renewal area of Fishermans Bend near Port Melbourne.
Maguire has previously suggested that public housing residents could be trained as Melbourne tour guides to share their knowledge of the city by leading tours from Southbank to areas including Fishermans Bend.
"(It's) where all of the people moving into the towers, who are going to be lonely, will be able to meet with all of the people who've been around in the housing ministry areas for 50 years," he adds.
"They are better at handling loneliness than the people who are going to be living in the towers. That's why we go out and have meals out where people are so that they say to us, 'Thanks for bringing the tables and chairs, because we can actually sit down and feel as though we're in this as people. We're not faceless and we're not anonymous'."
The charismatic Maguire practices what he preaches. His Father Bob Foundation, registered as a secular organisation, delivers food to Melbourne's homeless and feeds about 600 people a week.
"But see, it's not only the practice, it's the principle," Maguire adds. "Let's get together."Suggest a correction