Carey and Hume put moral issues in election spotlight

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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, and Cardinal Basil Hume, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, yesterday called for a return to Christian values in Christmas messages.

Earlier this year, Dr Carey called for a national debate on morality, and speaking on GMTV's Sunday Programme he repeated his warning about the state of Britain's values, hitting out at "DIY morality" and slipping standards. Cardinal Hume, meanwhile, urged people to consider moral issues before casting their votes at the next election.

In an interview on Sky News, he urged voters to press candidates over their stance on "life" issues such as abortion and euthanasia, but insisted he was not telling people which party to back.

When he was asked whether MPs were setting a good example, Dr Carey said the Church and politicians had to work together. "I want us to get beyond the kind of them and us society, that they are to blame and we're being wronged ... a partnership is required to make this country strong again."

Despite the slide away from the tradition of morality, Dr Carey said there were encouraging signs of a return to decency and a rejection of cheating and violence. "There is a deep longing to have moral standards and indeed I think what has happened, what has heartened me enormously, is there is a consensus emerging in our schools and elsewhere.

"So we needn't throw up our hands in despair," he declared.

Dr Carey also refused to criticise the Prince of Wales for the breakdown of his marriage and, regarding the issue of homosexuals in the Church, urged that homophobia be resisted in all walks of life.

Cardinal Hume stressed that voters had to "follow their own consciences", but added: "I would always urge them to put the question to perspective MPs - `Where do you stand on this issue of life?', not only the question of abortion, but also euthanasia." With anti-abortion groups preparing to put up candidates at the election, Britain could find the issue becomes a major theme as in the United States. Cardinal Hume said society was "obsessed with sex", and argued that life began from the moment of conception, but warned against adopting "extremism".

Cardinal Hume also called for issues such as "how we treat people in their lives, what are we doing for the unemployed, what are we doing for those who have no homes" to become focal points at the election.