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Many Britons 'ignorant of Easter's significance'

EASTER SUNDAY, traditionally a time of Christian celebration, yielded its fair share of condemnation yesterday as two opinion polls showed that almost one- third of Britons are ignorant of the religious significance of Easter.

But the targets singled out as responsible for undermining Christian values varied markedly. The condemnation of terrorists and warmongers was certainly to be expected. The suggestion that the church itself may be responsible for its own decline is a controversial but previously rehearsed argument. That anti-zoo groups and vegetarians might also be to blame appears to be a fairly new departure.

Dr George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, referred to the bombings at Warrington. He said that despite the actions of the IRA, the Easter message demonstrated that 'evil, not God, has been defeated'.

Pope John Paul II greeted 50,000 faithful by declaring that a festival of Christian joy had been marred by the 'atrocious drama' being played out in Bosnia.

Dr John Habgood, the Archbishop of York, warned that 'millions of people' have lost ethical bearings and religious stability and were reduced to scrabbling around 'in the dustbins of popular culture', picking up 'half-baked ideas from the media'.

But the nation's moral welfare is not just the province of religious leaders - leader writers also had something to say. The Sunday Express and Sunday Telegraph both published the results of surveys showing that about one-third of Britons do not know why Easter is celebrated.

The Sunday Express blamed the church for becoming 'irrelevant'. The Sunday Telegraph, however, decried the burgeoning interest in animal rights. That apparently includes those who reject field sports and zoos and espouse vegetarianism.

'If members of the Animal Liberation Front had been in Jerusalem on the First Good Friday,' its leading article asserted, 'they would have been far too worried about the fate of the donkey on which Christ entered Jerusalem to mind that He was being crucified before their eyes.'