Page last updated at 18:59 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

Archbishop attacks love of money

By Robert Pigott
Religious affairs correspondent

Dr John Sentamu
The financial crisis must be tackled globally, says Dr Sentamu

The Archbishop of York John Sentamu has led other church leaders in blaming what he called "the idolatrous love of money" for the financial crisis.

Dr Sentamu told the Church of England's General Synod in London that taxes would have to increase in order to help those worst affected by the recession.

He said Britain had "worshipped at the temple of money" as if it were a God.

Last year Dr Sentamu described bankers and financial speculators as "robber barons and asset strippers".

'Search for blame'

He told the General Synod the operation of financial markets would need reform, but the most urgent need was to help those "at the sharp end" of the crisis.

"Though I really don't want to get into the detail, surely if the plan is to redistribute money gained from inheritance tax, then taxes would have to be raised to meet the deficit in the public spending budget," he said.

We are in severe danger of the very rich doing for the very rich what they have failed to do for the very poor, and that is shameful
The Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright

Dr Sentamu said work to tackle the effects of the crisis must not end in the UK.

A child died every three seconds because of extreme poverty, and 5,000 a day because of unsafe water and lack of sanitation, he added.

He also said the Millennium Development Goals must not be abandoned because of the credit crisis.

Referring to rescue plans for banks and car companies in the industrial world, the Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, said far too little was being done for developing countries where poverty was far more serious.

"We are in severe danger of the very rich doing for the very rich what they have failed to do for the very poor, and that is shameful," he said.

A lay member from St Albans, Simon Baynes, angrily denounced the irresponsible attitude to debt that had been encouraged by economic policy in the past.

The General Synod meeting
Members of the General Synod met at Church House in central London

"We have been stealing from the next generation and we should hang our heads in shame... it's become a case of have today, and someone else will pay tomorrow," he said.

There was a warning from the Bishop of Hulme, Stephen Lowe, that unemployment would increase beyond three million.

He said it would produce anger, with the potential to damage relations between ethnic and religious groups.

"There will be a search for someone to blame… we've already seen some of it," he said.

"I fear that race relations will come under pressure. The far right sees the recession as an opportunity to expand."

But the Bishop of London Richard Chartres said the financial crisis contained opportunities as well as suffering and danger. He said the recession was already making people rethink what was truly important in life.

He said: "Sometimes indeed people seem to be relieved to get off the treadmill and to be given an opportunity to reconsider what they really want out of life."

"One of the great implications of this turbulence for us is to re-boot our sense of what a truly flourishing human life consists of."

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