25 Dec 2015

Christmas Message from the Bishops of Limerick

We're both quite new to Limerick and its surrounds, and it's a real delight to see the way Limerick celebrates Christmas. The city looks great with street lights, shop windows and Christmas tunes everywhere, but so too does every town and villages, each celebrating Christmas in their own way.
There is plenty to celebrate – time with family, homecomings, young children, presents – and at the heart of it all the central Christian message that God came among us as a baby and remains with us today. Amidst all the tinsel and glitter, there is this simple true story of a young mother and her baby, a baby who would grow up to change the world and open up the possibility of new life and a new relationship with God.
That young baby and his parents were homeless at the time; that's why they found themselves in a stable. Very soon they were refugees in Egypt, escaping a tyrant who sought to kill all young children. That's why refugees and those who are homeless are often at the centre of our concerns around Christmas.
Homelessness is a terrible scourge in any society. Not to have a place to call home robs individuals of their dignity and of their self-worth. If you don't have a home it's hard to get a job. If a family is homeless their children find it hard to go to school and to settle down. The instability of homelessness brings suffering which continues right throughout life. And yet we hear more people are homeless in Ireland than ever before, and despite all our concerns and efforts the situation is getting worse, not better.
We sit in stunned silence every night in front of our televisions watching images of another refugee crisis in the middle-east and in Europe. We are silent at the unspeakable violence which drives people from their homes, and pushes them to undertake the dangerous journey by boat in an effort to find safety, security and a new life free of fear.
When news broke that some of those refugees would be coming to Ireland the immediate response was one of sympathy and welcome. That welcome will, we are sure continue into 2016 when the first refugees arrive.
Homelessness, refugees, part of that first Christmas in Palestine 2000 years ago, and still with us. How we as a society respond to this during 2016 will be the test as to whether we take the Christmas message, seriously, whether our celebrations are sincere.
So may we wish you all a happy and meaning-filled Christmas, and a peaceful New Year.
Brendan Leahy. Kenneth Kearon.

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