The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Alphonsus Cullinan has issued a Christmas message to all across the diocese
Bishop Cullinan said the "wonderful visit" of Pope Francis to Ireland was a "blessing", continuing: "He encouraged us to make our families places of love and mutual support. God knows that it can be difficult, especially in today’s complex world.
"While in a supermarket just recently, I stood next to a man who was scrutinising a row of Christmas presents. He took a long time to choose something. By the way in which he examined the price marked on each one, it became clear to me that his problem was not that he was unable to make up his mind, but was unable to afford the one he really wanted.
"How many people are in financial trouble this Christmas? How many parents find watching the Toy Show a difficult thing, knowing that they simply cannot afford the exotic toys on display? Yet when we think of the Christmas' of our youth, we do not remember so much the material things we received, but the time, affection and love we shared as family. These things do not cost money. They are priceless.
"God’s gift to humanity cannot be measured in money terms. Jesus Christ is God’s gift - the gift of God’s self, born of Mary in a simple stable, human and divine - God and man. He offers us the things which we cannot buy – grace, mercy, love, meaning and purpose - in this life and, after this life, eternal happiness.
"The birth of the Saviour has changed everything. Even in the difficulties of life, there is hope. After discovering the personal love of God the Father, a young woman wrote to the sister who was befriending her: 'Though I have never known my father, I now see that the huge hole in my heart has been filled with God’s love'. May the Lord fill our hearts this Christmas.
"May we be conscious of the blessings we have and be open to God’s grace. For those of us who have been fortunate enough to have good family lives, may we be thankful. May we reach out to those who have not had that good fortune. We think also of those who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ across the world. May the peace of Bethlehem reign in our families. With God’s help we will be patient, kind and forgiving.
"To those who were listening to him on his visit to the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin in August, Pope Francis said: 'Each of you, think in your heart of all those who are dear to you, because I will bless them also, and you. And another thing - if any of you has an enemy or anyone you dislike, think of them too and they will also receive the blessing'. May that blessing descend upon us all," he added.