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Monday, June 21, 1999 Published at 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK


Hume's millennium prayer plea wrangle

The Dome at Greenwich: Organisers say they will "reflect Christianity"

By BBC News Online's Alex Kirby

The late Cardinal Hume's wish for the millennium party in the Dome at Greenwich to include a pause for prayer has not been agreed by the organisers.

But they say they will be "reflecting Christianity" at some point during the millennium's final hours.

The cardinal, the leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, died on 17 June, aged 76.

In a newspaper article last February, he offered a list of 10 action points for the millennium, and then added to it.

"An 11th point occurs to me: it is to insist that at midnight, as we usher in the new millennium, the archbishop of Canterbury be invited to pray to God, publicly and in the name of the whole nation."

The cardinal is known to have repeated his wish in the months before his death.

Staying away

The archbishop himself, Dr George Carey, said: "It doesn't matter who leads prayers for the nation as long as someone does".

But he added: "Unless there is some Christian component in the New Year's Eve celebration, I won't be there."

Dr Carey is prepared to compromise on the exact point at which this moment of Christian reflection should occur.

[ image: Basil Hume:
Basil Hume: "Insistent" on millennium prayer
Church of England and Catholic leaders had a meeting at Lambeth Palace with representatives of the government and the New Millennium Experience Company the day after the cardinal died.

The meeting ended without agreement on the request for prayer, but discussions are continuing.

The NMEC and the government are believed to want to keep the celebrations in the hour before midnight and the half hour afterwards largely free of all speech, including prayer.

This is so that they can stage a spectacular musical show, with dancing and lights.

They are said to feel that an interlude of prayer could dampen the party atmosphere.

An NMEC spokeswoman said she could not give details of the celebrations, as they were still being worked out.

But she told BBC News Online: "We will be reflecting Christianity in some way at the opening ceremony at the Dome on New Year's Eve".

She could not say at what time the opening ceremony would be held.

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