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Saturday, 23 December, 2000, 22:41 GMT
Archbishop backs monarchy debate
Archbishop of Canterbury
Dr George Carey says there is a 'real debate' to be had
Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey has acknowledged there is a "real debate" over the law barring Roman Catholics from the throne.

The Act of Settlement was passed nearly 300 years ago, at a time when there was widespread fear of Catholics in England.

But earlier this month The Guardian newspaper issued a legal challenge to the Act. Nationalists in Scotland have also tabled a parliamentary motion calling for it to be repealed.


There is a debate that we have got to have

Dr George Carey
Dr Carey - spiritual leader of the Church of England - said the church had to be prepared to enter the argument over the future of the relationship between the monarchy and the established church.

Critics say that, because the monarch is also the head of the Church of England, the relationship between church and state would have to change if a non-Protestant were to become sovereign.

But Dr Carey said the nature of establishment was constantly changing and would continue evolving in the future.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "Establishment is not about privilege but about service to the nation. That service will go whether the Church of England disestablished or not.

"Establishment is a changing thing. It is quite different from what it was 100 years ago."

He accepted that the question of repealing the Act was now on the agenda, though he believes the government has "no great desire" for change at present.

"There is a real argument there. There is a debate that we have got to have," he said.

Worship or shopping

Dr Carey also dismissed reports that more people will be shopping than worshiping this Christmas Eve.

He said many of those shopping will "worship as well".

"Of course people will want to do their shopping. We are not comparing like with like," he said.

"People want to shop but it has very little meaning if shopping is the only thing people do."

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