Page last updated at 12:47 GMT, Sunday, 12 April 2009 13:47 UK

Church leaders draw on downturn

Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams
Dr Rowan Williams believes people are trying to find a simpler way to live

Church leaders have urged Christians not to look for comfort in material possessions amid the economic downturn.

In his Easter sermon, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said they needed to show faith by living an "unselfish life".

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, called on people to avoid negative feelings.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of York has criticised the staging of Premiership football matches on Easter Sunday.

Dr Williams told the congregation at Canterbury Cathedral: "The present financial crisis has dealt a heavy blow to the idea that human fulfilment can be thought about just in terms of material growth and possession."

He suggested the crisis had also been an impetus for people to explore a monastic life.

We're still fascinated by this life - we joke about it, yet have an uneasy respect for it
Dr Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury

Dr Williams said this showed people were trying to find a way to live a more faithful life like "the men and women who tried to live out the life of heaven in the daily discipline of life together".

He added: "We're still fascinated by this life - we joke about it, yet have an uneasy respect for it, as a whole series of television presentations will confirm.

He also urged people to show greater respect to those who had chosen a monastic life and show more recognition for those who had chosen "the path of contemplation".

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, giving his last Easter sermon before retiring in August, said: "I now have to move on to a new stage of my life as I go into retirement.

"I have, if you like, to die a little in order to follow the Will of the Lord and begin, perhaps, a new stage of living, a more abundant life.

"Sometimes we carry resentments, grudges, prejudices, hurts and angers - like security blankets in our lives.

"This may be particularly pertinent at the present time, when many people are feeling stress and anxiety due to the difficulties resulting from the economic situation locally and globally."

'Glory hunting'

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has attacked as "glory hunting" the decision to stage Premiership football matches between Aston Villa and Everton, and Manchester City and Fulham, on Easter Sunday.

His intervention in an article in the News of the World, came after two Birmingham church groups wrote to the league and to Aston Villa questioning why the law allowed the Easter Sunday matches to go ahead while supermarkets and other large traders remained shut.

Meanwhile, the new leader of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, encouraged Catholics to express their views on issues such as abortion.

He told Sky News: "I don't go around looking for fights. I really just try to make contact with people, and hopefully to try to be reasonable and persuasive about God and how much our society has to gain by not marginalising religious faith."

The Archbishop, who has encouraged followers to oppose plans to allow abortion providers to advertise on television, said: "All I'm trying to do is highlight some of the issues and ask people - abortion is a very difficult issue - that it's not simplified."

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