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Thursday, February 25, 1999 Published at 11:20 GMT


Churchman's dome warning

Cardinal Hume: One moment in time

A rift is growing between political and religious leaders over the content of the UK's New Year's Eve celebrations at the Millennium Dome in London.

Cardinal Basil Hume: "I want to be at prayer"
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has suggested he will not attend the opening night if there is no mention of Jesus Christ.

But Culture Secretary Chris Smith has accused Cardinal Basil Hume of "expressing unnecessary worries" about the celebrations.

[ image: Lord Falconer: To answer MPs questions]
Lord Falconer: To answer MPs questions
On Thursday, the minister in charge of the Millennium Dome faces questions for the first time from a Select Committee of MPs.

It is thought Lord Falconer will be asked about fears from the cardinal that the celebrations will amount to little more than a "commercial extravaganza".

Cardinal Hume told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey should lead the nation in a televised prayer just before midnight on 31 December 1999.

The cardinal's warning echoes that of Dr Carey, who warned in this week's Catholic Herald that he would not attend the dome party if it was not connected with the birth of Christ.

Torin Douglas: "Church leaders want candles to be lit on New Year's Eve"
Cardinal Hume says he will be at prayer on New Year's Eve, but that he could be in Westminster Cathedral if the dome event does not meet his expectations.

"The year 2000 marks the birth of Jesus Christ, so that is of great concern to Christians," he said.

But it was relevant to other people too: "We're celebrating a very significant moment of time and we who live in time should in fact concentrate out our minds on Him who's outside time.

"Now this can unite all religions who accept that there is someone or something beyond the here and now."

[ image: Chris Smith: Cardinal
Chris Smith: Cardinal "expressing unnecessary worries"
On Wednesday Mr Smith told the committee of MPs, religion in all its forms would play a big part in the celebrations.

He understood that the opening night would include the reading of an all-faiths affirmation.

Cardinal Hume said although that was important, it did not go far enough: "It doesn't mention God and it doesn't mention Jesus Christ."

Asked whether his demands were appropriate in a diverse society, the cardinal said they were not just for religious people.

It was "a moment when eternity and our present time meet" which could "unite all sorts of people, even people who have the vaguest kind of spiritual aspirations within them".

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