Goodwill to all men – apart from the bankers


Christian leaders delivered a string of politically-charged sermons yesterday attacking financial greed – capping a year of tumultuous events that has often seen the religious establishment wrong-footed.

Britain's two most senior Anglican clergymen, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, both took excoriating swipes at the financial system in what were seen as their attempts to regain some moral authority in the escalating debate about inequality in Britain. The Pope concentrated on the increasing commercialisation of Christmas.

The Catholic Church's most senior figure in England and Wales, the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, also used his midnight mass homily to rebuke plans by Israel to annex yet more Palestinian land as it extends its controversial separation barrier.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams lamented what he described as the "broken bonds and abused trust" within British society, speaking at Canterbury Cathedral yesterday.

Comparing the actions of speculators to the behaviour of those who looted shops earlier this summer, he said: "Whether it is an urban rioter mindlessly burning down a small shop that serves his community, or a speculator turning his back on the question of who bears the ultimate cost for his acquisitive adventures in the virtual reality of today's financial world, the picture is of atoms spinning apart in the dark."

Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, listed sins he described as "beastly". All revolved around greed, such as "extortionate moneylending", "perverting justice for a bribe" and "a right to consume with no regard for social action".

The decision by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to examine greed follows intense criticism of how the Church of England handled the Occupy London Stock Exchange protests that camped out on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral. Plans by the cathedral to evict the protesters prompted resignations and widespread criticism within clergy amid concerns that senior leaders were appearing out of touch with anger on the streets.

Since then the Archbishop of Canterbury – whose personal sympathies lay with the Occupy protesters – has been keen to push the church towards confronting what many see as a deeply unjust financial system.

Meanwhile Channel 4 took the opportunity to deliver two "alternative Christmas messages". This year's first alternative message was delivered by Stephen Drew and Vic Goddard, two teachers who featured in Educating Essex, a documentary set in a school.

Calling for greater understanding towards young people, Mr Goddard said: "Youth today are given such a hard time and for some young people Christmas will be fairly rubbish. It's a time when differences are magnified."

In the second alternative message, participants in some of Channel 4's diversity programming – such as Max Laird from Seven Dwarves, Karen Gayle from My Transsexual Summer, the acid-attack survivor Katie Piper and Beauty and the Beast contributor Susan Campbell-Duncan, who has a facial disfigurement – made a plea for tolerance.

The most senior Catholic in England and Wales also used his midnight mass speech to criticise the Israeli government over its plans to appropriate more Palestinian land in expanding its separation barrier. The Archbishop of Westminster decided to include a prayer for the Palestinian inhabitants of Beit Jala at the last minute following a visit to the Holy Land.

The Pope also used his Christmas speeches to make political points. At a midnight mass in Rome – which had been moved forward two hours to allow the Pope a good night's rest – Benedict XVI urged his faithful to look beyond what he described as "Christmas glitter", in an attack on the secularisation of a religious festival.

"Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God's humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity," the pontiff said. "Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season."

Twelve hours later – at his annual "Urbi et Orbi" speech in front of worshippers at St Peter's basilica – the Pope turned his attention to war, specifically naming Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. "May the Lord come to the aid of our world torn by so many conflicts which even today stain the earth with blood," he said during the address, which translates as "to the city and the world".

Pontiffs often use their Christmas messages to call for an end to violence but this year's message had extra poignancy. Only hours before the sermon was delivered, scores of Catholic Nigerians were killed whilst celebrating Christmas mass in a bomb blast close to the capital Abuja.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living