Archbishop urges rich to share hardship
There is a "lasting sense" that the most prosperous in society have yet to shoulder their load in the economic downturn, the Archbishop of Canterbury said today.
Rowan Williams used his Christmas Day sermon to stress the importance of people working together to rebuild mutual confidence and trust.
He said: "That confidence isn't in huge supply at the moment, given the massive crises of trust that have shaken us all in the last couple of years and the lasting sense that the most prosperous have yet to shoulder their load."
Referring to Prime Minister David Cameron's "Big Society" idea, he said: "If we are ready, if we are all ready, to meet the challenge represented by the language of the 'Big Society', we may yet restore some mutual trust. It's no use being cynical about this; whatever we call the enterprise, the challenge is the same - creating confidence by sharing the burden of constructive work together."
Dr Williams warned of hardship ahead.
He said: "Faced with the hardship that quite clearly lies ahead for so many in the wake of the financial crisis and public spending cuts, how far are we able to sustain a living sense of loyalty to each other, a real willingness to bear the load together? How eager are we to find some spot where we feel safe from the pressures that are crippling and terrifying others?
"As has more than once been said, we can and will as a society bear hardship if we are confident that it is being fairly shared; and we shall have that confidence only if there are signs that everyone is committed to their neighbour, that no one is just forgotten, that no interest group or pressure group is able to opt out."
The Archbishop also referred to the forthcoming royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.
He said: "Next year, we shall be joining in the celebration of what we hope will be a profoundly joyful event in the royal wedding. It is certainly cause for celebration that any couple, let alone this particular couple, should want to embark on the adventure of Christian marriage, because any and every Christian marriage is a sign of hope, since it is a sign and sacrament of God's own committed love.
"And it would be good to think that in this coming year, we, as a society, might want to think through, carefully and imaginatively, why lifelong faithfulness and the mutual surrender of selfishness are such great gifts."
Dr Williams compared Christian marriage with the covenantal relationship with God and reflected on the inspirational examples of some marriages he has seen.
He said: "There will be times when we may feel stupid or helpless; when we don't feel we have the energy or resource to forgive and rebuild after a crisis or a quarrel; when we don't want our freedom limited by the commitments we've made to someone else.
"Yet many of us will know marriages where something extraordinary has happened because of the persistence of one of the parties, or where faithfulness has survived the tests of severe illness or disability or trauma."
The Archbishop also singled out the strong bond between those in the armed forces and their loved ones.
He said: "I admit, I find myself deeply moved at times when I speak with the families of servicemen and women, where this sense of solidarity is often so deeply marked, so generous and costly.
"As the Prince and his fiancee get ready for their new step into solidarity together, they will have plenty of inspiration around, more than you might sometimes guess from the chatter of our culture."
Dr Williams also urged people to remember those around the world, including in Zimbabwe and Iraq, who suffered repression and persecution for their Christian faith.
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