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Archbishop of Canterbury Praises Richard Dawkins

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The world is not a warehouse to serve our greed, Archbishop tells worshippers

Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

The Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday blamed mankind's greed for endangering the environment.

In his Christmas Day sermon at Canterbury Cathedral, Dr Rowan Williams 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 the endless wonder by the world around us."

He said that the world was not merely a "warehouse of resources to serve humanity's selfishness", and he urged people to treat each other and nature with "reverence".

The Archbishop also singled out for praise the atheist Richard Dawkins, the Oxford professor recently outed as a carol singer, whom he described as being in touch with the "amazement and awe" of God's creation.

He likened Professor Dawkins' understanding of the beauty of the world around us with that of St John of the Cross, the 16th-century mystic.

Dr Williams, who was recently interviewed by Professor Dawkins about Charles Darwin and evolution for a Channel 4 series to be broadcast next year, said that the whole point of creation was that there should be people "capable of intimacy with God — not so that God can gain something, but so that these created beings may live in joy."

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said that the Christmas message challenged complacency and prejudice. Preaching in York Minster without his clerical collar after he cut it up in a televised protest against the Zimbabwean regime of Robert Mugabe, Dr Sentamu said that injustices such as the abduction of Madeleine McCann, the murder of the schoolboy Rhys Jones and the failure of anyone to take responsibility for the Omagh bombing were examples of God being "violated and blasphemed". He said that every individual was a "stand-in for God" and needed to be treated with value, dignity and respect. "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 called on people to join forces in bringing human rights violations to an end. Such abuses disfigured the likeness of God, he said.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who has seen the number of Roman Catholics in England surpass Church of England worshippers because of the surge in migration from the EU accession states, said that Britain should do more to welcome the newcomers.

During Midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said: "What concerns me at the moment is our attitude as a nation to these many immigrants. Many of these people are trying, for perfectly good reasons, to enter Britain and they need to be welcomed."

Preaching on the importance of Christian compassion towards the less fortunate, he said: "I understand that immigration needs to be controlled. However, sometimes [migrants] must feel like Joseph when he returned to Bethlehem after exile in Egypt, simply excluded because they are outsiders. Do we perceive them as a threat to our wellbeing or to our way of life, or are we able to welcome people who need that welcome? Is there any room at our inn? Can we offer them tidings of comfort and joy, or do we simply close our doors?"

He also spoke of the importance of helping those in need, including the homeless. "If we always walk past the homeless men and women in our cities and never really look at them, never allow them to touch our hearts, something essential is missing in our idea of Christianity, and we find that, like the innkeeper in the Gospel."

The Anglican Bishop of Shrewsbury, Dr Alan Smith, echoed Dr Williams's environmental concerns. "If the warnings from the recent Bali conference on climate change come true, we may not have many more white Christmases," he said. "There is a growing consensus that the human race is damaging the world's ecosys-tems at an alarming rate and that urgent action is needed. One of the difficulties is that we all want everyone else to change their lifestyles, so that we can continue with ours. We need to pray for a consensus to emerge at global and national levels that we all need to live differently."



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