New Year row as Carey seeks prayers on TV BBC chiefs oppose Carey New Year plan plans

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The Independent Online
THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury has clashed with the BBC and the organisers of the Millennium Dome because he wants a minute's silent prayer during the last hour of the New Year's Eve celebrations.

The New Millennium Experience Company, which runs the Dome at Greenwich in south-east London, is unhappy with proposals that a minute of "prayerful" silence be included in its celebrations. The Dome will be attended by the Queen, the Prime Minister and 10,000 invited guests, and will be the focus of the evening's activities.

The BBC, which is to broadcast from the Dome on the night, is also unenthusiastic about screening a period of prayer led by the Archbishop, Dr George Carey. The Church of England wants the moment of silence to take place in every home, pub and club across the country during the last 40 minutes of the year. It plans to distribute candles for people to light during the minute's silence, which would be accompanied by a prayer-like millennium resolution.

Dr Carey and his millennium office at Lambeth Palace have indicated that he will not attend the Dome celebrations if there is no spiritual element to the night.

"Lambeth Palace and the Dome are at daggers," said an inside source.

"The BBC is unhappy with the moment's silence for a number of reasons, not least because silence sounds absolutely awful on television and radio - it just makes bad telly in the middle of what is supposed to be a celebration.

"The BBC might go along with it if it thinks the whole nation really is going to shut up and stop drinking for a minute. The BBC is also worried because Carey is the leader of the Church of England, but not leader of the Church in Scotland, Ireland or Wales, and it is the national broadcaster."

A Lambeth Palace insider said the millennium company's first reaction to the moment of silence idea was to complain that the candles would be a fire risk.

He said: "We can easily get around that with electrical lighting, but the fact is that the NMEC wants to have its showmeisters create a spectacular that has no real relation to the outside world."

A company spokesman refused to comment on the detailed content of its opening ceremony, but maintained that there would be a "spiritual element". It has confirmed that a version of its "Millennium Show" - which will run all year long - will be shown on the opening night, with Jools Holland as musical director.

The Queen will be there on New Year's Eve to open the Dome officially.

The audience at Greenwich will be guests of the commercial sponsors of the Dome, plus competition winners, and dignitaries invited by the Government and Buckingham Palace.

The Rev Stephen Linus, of the Church of England's millennium office, said: "The Archbishop has always taken the millennium very seriously and so it is not atypical of him to ask where is the Christian bit in the highest-profile event of the year's start."

n Almost half of Britain's secondary schools and a third of primary schools are planning productions that explore the words and actions of Jesus and their relevance today.

The Millennium Arts Festival for Schools, the only initiative backed by the Government to focus on the Christian significance of the year 2000, has the support of all the main religions in this country.

The project will encourage pupils to ask questions such as: "What would Jesus say to your community today?" "What sort of job would he do?" and "How would he respond to materialism, homelessness, poverty in the less- developed world, or damage to the environment?"