Page last updated at 08:34 GMT, Thursday, 25 December 2008

Cardinal concerned over distrust

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The Cardinal says the downturn can help people to 're-evaluate' their lives

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has blamed the credit crunch for a "breakdown" in the trust felt by society.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor spoke in London at what was expected to be his final Christmas Midnight Mass as Archbishop of Westminster.

He said market economies must have an underlying moral purpose.

Earlier, the Archbishop of Canterbury urged people to look after each other during the economic downturn.

In his homily at Westminster Cathedral, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said that thousands, maybe millions, of people in the UK felt let down by financial institutions and consequently were "deeply anxious" about their future.

Essential element

He felt shocked by the "spectacular" cases of some people at the heart of the financial system acting in such a way that it would be hard for that trust to be regained.

He said: "Christianity neither condemns nor canonises the market economy - it may be an essential element in the conduct of human affairs.

Dr Rowan Williams

"But we have to remember that it is a system governed by people, not some blind force like gravity.

"Those who operate the market have an obligation to act in ways that promote the common good, not just in ways that promote the interests of certain groups."

Admitting he was "no expert" in economics, he said he was unable to "ignore the damaging consequences of volatile financial markets" on his fellow human beings.

Desolation

In his sermon, he said the poor would be hardest hit by the downturn and he hoped that Britain's problems would not result in the country forgetting those in "far worse" situations in the rest of the world - especially in Africa.

Discussing his visit to Zimbabwe earlier this year, the archbishop said he had been shocked and touched by the poverty and desolation felt by the nation.

Urging Christians to develop "a globalisation of solidarity" and love their fellow humans wherever they were, he said: "How terrible if globalisation evolves in an ethical vacuum."

He described crises as an "opportunity" to re-evaluate people's priorities about what components formed a "good life and good society". He said he hoped that this Christmas would see people begin to trust each other again and become interested in sharing their concerns and issues.

He said: "My dream is of a society that becomes more deeply human, more satisfying, more hopeful."

Earlier, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, emphasised the same need for compassion and hope through "small and local gesures" during his own Christmas sermon.

Speaking at Canterbury Cathedral, he said people should not wait for "larger-than-life" heroes to solve the world's problems.

He said one of Jesus Christ's lessons was that he did not meet expectations of bringing a golden age.

"The gospel tells us something hard to hear - that there is not going to be a single charismatic leader or a dedicated political campaign or a war to end all wars that will bring the golden age.

"It tells us that history will end when God decides, not when we think we have sorted all our problems out; that we cannot turn the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of God and his anointed; that we cannot reverse what has happened and restore a golden age."



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