The attendance at Wembley by the Arsenal fan Dr George Carey, and Newcastle supporter Cardinal Hume, is criticised by the editor of the Church Times as a "missed opportunity to show the country what real sacrifice means". The two were invited but "pleaded a prior engagement", a spokesman said. Writing today in The Independent, Paul Handley says that with half the world in physical peril and the other half in peril spiritually, "spending a dull afternoon in Birmingham is a small price to pay".
Church spokesmen denied that the prelates had their priorities wrong. "Dr Carey has given two major speeches on debt and has just come back from Uganda where debt was at the top of the agenda," said a spokesman for Lambeth Palace.
Cardinal Hume's office said that he had "taken a very active interest in the question of debt over several years. He organised a seminar in 1996 attended by the director of the International Monetary Fund; and he attended a meeting with the Chancellor in December... He personally contacted the presidents of the Catholic Bishops' Conferences of all the G7 countries and asked them to make special appeals to their governments and he went specially to Birmingham today to pray and speak about debt..."
A spokeswoman for the debt cancellation campaign Jubilee 2000 said that the archbishops "will be missed on the day but have both put in a lot of time to publicise the campaign".
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