CARDINAL Sean Brady spoke of "the struggle between the culture of life and the culture of death" as he stressed his ongoing opposition to abortion legislation.
He expressed huge disappointment over the commencement of the Government's Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act on January 1.
"The Christ child came into the world that we may have life and have it to the full. The task of his people and his church will always be to bring that message," he said.
"No matter what norms or laws are on the statute book, the task of the church is to conscientise people to abhor the idea of the taking of the life of an innocent human -- at any stage of its existence, from the moment of conception to natural death."
Despite the failure of the church to stop the bill's passage through the Dail and Seanad, Dr Brady said there had been "plenty of heartening signs" for the pro-life side. He cited the "rally in Dublin in which 30,000 people turned up on a bleak January day".
"Of course it was a disappointment but the fact is there is an awakening, I think, among a greater number of people to the crisis of values that confronts us."
He said that the work of promoting a pro-life message "falls on all the baptised" not just the bishops.
Meanwhile, speaking about Northern Ireland, Dr Brady pleaded with dissident republicans "to respect the desire of the people of this country to live in peace". He said the dissidents had "absolutely no mandate" for what they were doing.
The rise in dissident activity includes the attempt to detonate a stolen diesel tanker outside Sean Quinn's former Derrylin headquarters in Cavan as well as the attempted bomb attack on a Belfast shopping centre at the end of November.
The PSNI said the attack could have had catastrophic consequences for shoppers.
While expressing relief that these incidents had been thwarted, Dr Brady feared that dissidents still seemed to have "the capacity to wreak havoc".
"I hope they continue to be thwarted because there is no appetite for violence or a return to violence in Northern Ireland. That is my view and it is shared by a lot of people," he said.
"Any view of life that denies a person's humanity by reducing him or her to a 'legitimate target' offers no vision for the future," he said.