As Bishops of Cork, many things are on our minds as we approach Christmas 2018. We recently commemorated the centenary of the end of the ‘war to end all wars’ and yet, one hundred years on, there is war and conflict in many places around world. Everyone feels the global reach of these wars where they are locally. Next year we will begin to mark the events, not without their own violence and conflict, that led to the independent foundation of our State. At a more personal level many live with human conflict and deep upset in their own lives for all sorts of reasons, depending on our circumstances: homelessness, hunger, poverty, striving to keep going in a fast-changing society, keeping up at work, matching the pace of change. These, and so many more, challenge us in ways that affect our well-being: physical, mental and emotional.
It is against this background that we hear again in 2018 the Christmas message of the baby whose birth was announced as bringing ‘peace on earth and goodwill’. He was called the ‘Word made flesh’ – God among us; and ‘Emmanuel’ – God with us. Peace is so much more than the absence of war, conflict and violence. We often hear that ‘the peace of God passes all understanding’, and so it does, and for many it seems hard to find and to feel. The Christmas message assures us that God is with us no matter what we are going through.
As we join, therefore, once again this year as Bishops of Cork, in wishing you all a Happy Christmas, we pray that you will know the joy, hope and peace that the birth of Jesus, the baby born in Bethlehem brings; and indeed that all, wherever they are around the world, who work for justice, peace and the well-being of humanity, will be blessed and encouraged to persevere.
In offering these hopes and prayers, we are conscious that God energises people’s imaginations and gives them the will, in God’s name, to make the world a better place here and now. As ever, here in Cork, we pay tribute to, and encourage our parishes and the people of Cork to support (through our voluntary work or gifts and engagement), those who work day in and day out throughout the year among us to change things for the better for people who are poor, homeless, living on our streets, looking for affordable housing, newcomers to our shores, people living in fear of violence, coping with mental health issues, living with pain and illness, caring for older people and people living with dementia, those seeking cures for disease, those who feel like strangers among us, and many who are working to put before us the big issues that face us all, such as climate change.
There is so much good being done and worked towards. We wish each and every one of you a peaceful and blessed Christmas.
+Paul Colton, +John Buckley,
Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross Bishop of Cork and Ross.