Pope says stop sales of arms

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The Independent Online
THE POPE used his Christmas address yesterday to call for an end to arms production and a ban on the death penalty throughout the world.

Speaking in the Vatican he said that a halt in arms sales was necessary to "restrain the bloodied hand of those responsible for genocide and crimes of war".

He added: "May Christmas help to strengthen and renew the consensus concerning the need for urgent and adequate measures to halt the production and sale of arms, to defend human life, to ban the death penalty."

His appeal for the abolition of capital punishment was significant, coming a month before a trip to the United States, where 500 convicted killers have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

In Britain, Cardinal Basil Hume appealed for Christ not to be "squeezed out" ofChristmas and millennium celebrations. Speaking at Westminster Cathedral in London, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said: "What are you celebrating? We have squeezed God out of our culture, and so, paradoxically, we have almost succeeded in removing Christ out of Christmas."

The Archbishop of Canterbury also warned that Britain was neglecting its spiritual health. During a service at Canterbury Cathedral, Dr George Carey said: "Successive governments have taken a commendably close interest in measuring the quality of British life, as a necessary part of the process of trying to improve it. But all too often those efforts ... take no account of our spiritual health as a nation and of the inward life of each and every one of us round which everything else revolves."

In her Christmas broadcast, the Queen called for an alliance of young and old. "It is not always easy for those in their teens or twenties to believe that someone of my age - of the older generation - might have something useful to say to them."

The parents of Stephen Lawrence used their "alternative" Christmas broadcast on Channel 4 to call for new laws to tackle racist crimes. Doreen Lawrence, whose son was killed in a racist attack in south London in 1993, said this year's inquiry into the murder was an "opportunity for real change".