As Christmas approaches, we pray God’s blessing on the people of Cork for the forthcoming joyful season and the New Year.
As in the past few years, this Christmas occurs within an enduring and cruel recession that has reduced many to poverty and forced thousands of our young people to leave their native land in search of employment, far away from all that is dear to them. At special times like this their absence is most keenly felt at home.
Like all citizens, we applaud those who have given of their time and resources over the past years to ease the burden of the recession on the people of Cork. Christmas provides us with an opportunity to acknowledge and support the wonderful work that many of these agencies provide. SHARE, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Cork Penny Dinners are but a small representation of the groups that embody the compassion of Christ in our midst. The people of Cork appreciate very much their efforts to alleviate the distress of so many.
The Coming of Christ, over two thousand years ago, changed the course of human history. We must all try to remember that Christmas is, above all, a religious feast when we commemorate the love of God for us, manifested by the sending of his only Son to a stable at Bethlehem. While there are worthwhile and beneficial social and even economic ‘spinoffs’, a Christmas celebration without reference to Christ is both meaningless and empty. Christmas cannot be reduced to a ‘Happy Holiday’ or a celebration devoid of Christ. It is unfortunate that the essentials of Christmas, the infant Jesus, the Crib and Christmas worship are often set aside. The feast of Christmas is the most inclusive of all feasts, God made Man to lead us to God! As Christian bishops of Cork, we appeal to all believers to keep Christ at the centre of Christmas. Everything associated with Christmas is holy; the place where Jesus was born is referred to as the Holy Land, the infant Jesus is referred to as ‘The Holy Child’. Indeed, the word ‘Christmas itself means the Feast of Christ’!
Christmas is also a family time. Everyone tries to get home for Christmas. Planes, trains and boats only carry mostly people rather than mere cargo at this time. At Christmas the death of a loved one is particularly sad, and we feel very close to them during this season. Christmas is also a time to resolve family differences in preparation for a family feast. Family Prayer in the home also unites families. The message of Christmas is one of love, hope, joy and peace. Christ came as child for each one of us, to lead us to God. May Christ be present to all who are suffering or alone this Christmas.
We pray that the joy, hope and peace of the first Christmas may be present to the people of our Dioceses this Christmas. We pray that all families will experience the warmth of the family celebration and that the celebration of Christmas will be a Christian celebration that will support and increase our faith. Let us never forget that the coming of Christ means for each one of us that we have a future, even when this life is ended, and that we are loved, uniquely, by God.
May God bless you and yours this Christmas and may 2014 be a year of blessing for us all.
Bishop Paul Colton.
Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross
Bishop John Buckley
Bishop of Cork and Ross