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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 December 2007, 12:24 GMT
Archbishop warns over environment
Dr Rowan Williams
People should treat nature with reverence, the archbishop said
The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that human greed is threatening the environmental balance of the Earth.

In his Christmas sermon, Dr Rowan Williams called on Christians to do more to protect the environment.

The planet should not be used to "serve humanity's selfishness", he told worshippers at Canterbury Cathedral.

Meanwhile, the leader of England and Wales's Roman Catholics, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, has said people should do more to welcome immigrants.

'Fragile balance'

Dr Williams said humanity needed to protect the world that God had created.

"The whole point of creation is that there should be persons... capable of intimacy with God, not so that God can gain something but so that these created beings may live in joy," he said.

"And God's way of making sure that this joy is fully available is to join humanity on Earth so that human beings may recognise what they are and what they are for."

The leader of the Anglican Church said this meant people should treat both others and nature with reverence.

We don't just put our material survival at risk, more profoundly we put our spiritual sensitivity at risk
Dr Rowan Williams

"More and more (is) clearly required of us as we grow in awareness of how fragile is the balance of species and environments in the world and just how our greed distorts it," he said.

"When we threaten the balance of things, we don't just put our material survival at risk, more profoundly we put our spiritual sensitivity at risk - the possibility of being opened up to endless wonder by the world around us.

"Yes, it (the world) exists in one sense for humanity's sake, but it exists in its own independence and beauty for humanity's sake - not as a warehouse of resources to serve humanity's selfishness."

The archbishop spoke of the "brave and loving people on both sides of the dividing wall" in Bethlehem.

"The delight and reverence we should have towards the things of creation is intensified many times where human relationships are concerned," he said.

"And if peace is to be more than a pause in open conflict, it must be grounded in this passionate amazed reverence for others."

He also mentioned the atheist Professor Richard Dawkins, whose comments about the Earth's diversity Dr Williams said reflected the feeling of the Spanish saint, St John.

'Violated and blasphemed'

In the Archbishop of York's sermon at York Minster, Dr John Sentamu said that every person was a "stand-in for God".

He said the abduction of Madeleine McCann and the murder of schoolboy Rhys Jones were examples of God being "violated and blasphemed".

"For God who came to us in humility speaks forcefully to our pride, economic and social status, justice and the importance of human worth, forcing us to see each human being as a God-carrier, a stand-in for God," he said.

Dr Sentamu also highlighted trouble-spots around the world including Darfur, Zimbabwe and the Middle East.

"May the God who 'shone in our hearts and gave us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ' give us the grace and the courage to stop all those who are disfiguring his image and likeness in the suffering people he loves in His world," he said.

'Good reasons'

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said in his Christmas Homily, broadcast live on BBC Radio 4, that Christians should ensure "nothing and nobody remains untouched by the tidings of comfort and joy that came from heaven on the first Christmas night".

The Archbishop of Westminster said: "A theme which is much in the news in Britain at the moment is the question of the many immigrant peoples who come to our country.

"Most immigrants come to our country because they wish to have a better life and work so as to provide for their families."

He added: "Many of these people are trying, for perfectly good reasons, to enter Britain and they need to be welcomed."

Clip from the Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon

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