Elderly living alone in fear for their safety, says Martin
Violence is on the rise in Ireland linked to "unscrupulous and despicable" drug wars, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin has warned.
In his Christmas homily, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin expressed concern over the new signs of violence in the country, related to "that business of death, the drug world".
He also expressed concern over the ongoing cycle of stabbings.
Speaking about the message of Christmas, he told the faithful gathered in St Mary's Pro Cathedral in Dublin for Christmas Mass: "I ask myself how we can celebrate this beautiful night of peace and not remember the anxieties of many elderly men and women living alone."
He said many "have now begun to fear the night for their own safety".
Dr Martin also questioned how the joy of childhood can be celebrated when children are being trafficked, exploited, abused and are homeless.
Peace in today's world is "more than fragile" and "conflicts rage and fester", the Catholic leader stressed, and he said responses were often phrased in a language that was inflammatory rather than words and deeds of peace. However, the Archbishop also sounded an upbeat message, stressing that good can prevail.
"Christmas makes our hearts different, even for a moment. Doors are opened, feuds are reconciled, old enmities are put aside.
"This child who is born touches our hearts with a tenderness that we so easily hide in other moments."
Even the most hardened heart cannot but feel a certain sense of tenderness on Christmas night, he said.
"Thank God, for most of us, even the rampant commercialisation of Christmas that dominates our society for months each year, finally fades aside at least for a moment when, in the silence of this holy night, we are captured by the deeper message of Christmas."
The Archbishop said all were called to bring the message of Christmas to those places where darkness prevailed.
"We need a society where politics and economics play their part but we also need a society - indeed, a Church - where gladness is made greater, joy is increased and where the many who today live in darkness encounter a great and a welcome light."
In St Patrick's Cathedral Armagh, Archbishop Eamon Martin said Christmas was a time when we were especially conscious of families who had been bereaved this year, or who had someone in hospital or in care. "The plight of homeless, migrant and refugee families is also in our Christmas thoughts and prayers, as well as the anguish of families caught up in war or violence in various parts of the world," the Archbishop of Armagh said.