Williams attacks exclusion of RE in his final Easter sermon

Outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury and Catholic leaders take on highly charged political subjects

Religious leaders seemed to compete with each other yesterday over who could deliver the most politically charged Easter sermon as they continued to promote debate about the role of faith in public life.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, used his last Easter message before his retirement this year to attack what he called the downgrading of religious education.

The man being touted as his successor, Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, publicly baptised people on the steps of York Minister in what has become something of an annual tradition in the city under his leadership.

Senior Catholics delivered similarly political homilies, with one calling on Christians to wear crucifixes, and another using a media interview to restate the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to gay marriage.

In an Easter message last week, David Cameron welcomed what he described as a renewed willingness by faith communities to engage in a "fightback". But his speech concerned secularists and gay rights groups who fear the Prime Minister may backtrack on a commitment to support gay marriage.

Dr Williams, speaking at Canterbury Cathedral yesterday, criticised the Government for not including religious education as a subject counting towards the English baccalaureate, an alternative to A-levels which is being offered by more and more schools.

The leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, urged his followers to "proudly" wear a cross to display their faith.

His counterpart in England and Wales, Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, gave an interview to Sky News in which he attacked plans to make civil marriage available to gay men and women.

Keith Porteous Wood, of the National Secular Society, said last night: "The churches are in revivalist mode and are stopping at nothing to stem their haemhorraging support and boost their power.

"To do so they are inventing persecution, threatening the Government, rewriting history and even persecuting an oppressed minority – gay people."

WHAT THEY SAID: EASTER MESSAGES

Archbishop Rowan Williams: "There is plenty to suggest that younger people, while still statistically deeply unlikely to be churchgoers, don't have the hostility to faith that one might expect, but at least share some ... sense that there is something here to take seriously."

Cardinal Keith O'Brien: "I hope that increasing numbers of Christians adopt the practice of wearing a cross in a simple and discreet way as a symbol of their beliefs. A simple lapel cross pin costs around £1 . Since this is less than a chocolate Easter egg I hope many people will consider giving some as a gifts and wearing them with pride."

Archbishop Vincent Nichols: "We have legal protection for the shape of marriage that has served society very well ... for centuries and, quite frankly, we really don't see why it's important to change that."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us