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Wednesday, September 8, 1999 Published at 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK


Prayers to start millennium party

Dr Carey: Christian significance of millennium should be marked

By BBC News Online's Alex Kirby

The Church of England has succeeded in persuading the organisers of the millennium night celebrations at the dome in Greenwich to include a few minutes of prayer.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, will say several prayers, including the Lord's Prayer, during the opening ceremony at the dome on 31 December.

The prayers, which will be broadcast live, will be said at about 11.15pm, shortly after the Queen arrives at the dome.

The announcement by the archbishop's office that he is to pray at the dome marks the resolution of a long search for compromise.

The New Millennium Experience Company, responsible for organising the celebrations, had argued that allowing prayers to be said could spoil the party atmosphere.

Clash of ideas

They wanted to keep the celebrations in the hour before midnight and the half-hour afterwards largely free of all speech, including prayer.

This was to allow them to stage a spectacular musical show, with dancing and lights.

But Dr Carey insisted that the millennium should be marked with specifically Christian prayer as close as possible to midnight.

[ image: Dr Carey's persistence pays off]
Dr Carey's persistence pays off
Although he was prepared to compromise on the exact moment, he was thought likely to stay away from the dome unless he was offered a slot within the last hour of the dying year.

He said: "My clear priority has been to ensure that the essential Christian significance of the millennium is reflected in the opening ceremony.

"I am delighted that this priority, which has strong public support, has been fully recognised and accepted by the government, by the event organisers and by the broadcasters."

The late Cardinal Hume, who died on 17 June, had argued that Dr Carey should mark the millennium by praying "publicly and in the name of the whole nation".

At some point between the archbishop's prayers and midnight the churches' millennium resolution will be recited, with a specially commissioned musical setting.

The resolution, agreed by all the main Christian churches, reads: "Let there be respect for the earth, peace for its people, love in our lives, delight in the good, forgiveness for past wrongs, and from now on a new start."

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