Northern Ireland

Belfast cleric starting Black Santa charity sit-out

The Very Reverend John Mann is starting the Black Santa sit-out
Image caption The Very Reverend John Mann is starting the Black Santa sit-out

Belfast's Black Santa has started his annual Christmas sit-out for charity at St Anne's Cathedral.

The Dean of the cathedral, the Very Rev John Mann will be collecting money for charity on the steps of St Anne's until Christmas Eve.

Despite the difficult financial times, he hopes to raise close to £200,000.

The Dean is supported in the effort by the bishops of Down, Connor and Dromore, as well as the cathedral canons. Last year £185,000 was raised.

The charity vigil started in 1976 under Dean Sammy Crooks and has raised millions of pounds for charity since then.

Dean Jack Shearer, who died in 2001, was initially dubbed Black Santa by the media in the 1980s because of his distinctive clothing and the name caught on among the public.

The appeal raises money for various charities in Northern Ireland as well as Christian Aid.

After the Asian tsunami in 2004 the then Dean Houston McKelvey extended the time for collection. Thousands of people turned up to the cathedral to donate money for the victims, raising £1.6m in just a few weeks.

Nearly 200 charities are seeking help this year.

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