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Last Updated: Monday, 25 December 2006, 01:34 GMT
England 'a profoundly needy land'
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor urges Christians to visit Bethlehem
England is undergoing a "truly radical break" with humanity's traditions, the Archbishop of Westminster has warned.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor used his midnight Mass homily at Westminster Cathedral to describe England as "a profoundly needy land".

The Catholic leader in England and Wales has also urged Christians to visit Bethlehem, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

He was speaking a day after returning from a visit to the Middle East.

Please, please, if you possibly can, go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor

He said: "We live in a culture that seeks to express itself as totally self-sufficient, where only what is experienced or what can be calculated is valid, where individual freedom is held as the fundamental value to which all others must be subject.

"Our culture represents a truly radical break, not only with Christianity, but with the moral and religious traditions of humanity."

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury will use his Christmas Day sermon to urge the world not to look away from problems in the Middle East.

Dr Rowan Williams will voice concern over what he regards as an "almost total absence" of belief in the region that a political solution can be found.

During his visit to Bethlehem, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said: "I was able, with my companions, to enter the Basilica of the Nativity and go down those steps that have been there for a thousand years and kneel and pray in the grotto where Christ was born.

"Please, please, if you possibly can, go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

"It will be well worth it, not only for yourselves but also for the Christian community who live there."

The archbishop was on a visit to the Holy Land with other UK church leaders including the Archbishop Williams, who has claimed the government had displayed "short-sightedness" and "ignorance" over its policies concerning Iraq.


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