Beware of the 'paltry attractions' of society, says Carey

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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, warned against what he termed the " society" yesterday.

Delivering his Easter Day sermon, Dr Carey said people should not confuse its attractions with spiritual wealth. "We are so often seduced into believing that all that matters are things like power, success, fame and money," he said. "No, these are transitory, paltry things when compared to ultimate things of the Spirit."

In a similar vein, the leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales urged worshippers to keep their faith alive. While the Most Reverend Cormac Murphy-O'Connor appealed on behalf of asylum-seekers in his first Easter address as the Archbishop of Westminster, Dr Carey highlighted the plight of those suffering from war and famine in Africa.

Speaking at Canterbury Cathedral, Dr Carey said the Church had a duty to stand by the very poor, weak and starving and urged people not toabandon them. "I am concerned at present that 'Africa fatigue' is beginning to affect us all. If it is not Mozambique and the floods, then it is Sudan and the forgotten war. If it is not Rwanda and the genocide, then it is Sierra Leone and the forced amputations of limbs from men, women and children," he said.

"All too easily, in the face of such overwhelming suffering, we can ... turn away from the pain. But the cross compels us never to give up striving, working, hoping and praying - because it is God's people we are standing for and it is his love that we are reflecting."

The cross, he said, was the "powerful and potent image" that could be used to convey a message in the same way business chose to employ logos. Dr Carey added: "The Easter image of the cross is a universal sign, still potent and relevant in its appeal."

The new leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, preaching at Westminster Cathedral, also urged his congregation to use Easter as a time to affirm their beliefs. "We live in a society that is full of bustle and business, in contrast to the faith, the silence, and the prayer we have participated in these past few days.

"Somehow, in the midst of the world in which all of you live - with all its temptations and distractions - you have to defend the citadel of your heart," said the Most Rev Murphy-O'Connor. "If we Christians find that the world around us is becoming so secular, so pagan, so unreligious, it is our duty to do as St Peter told the Christians of the early Church, 'Do not be afraid or disturbed at their threats, but enthrone Christ as Lord in your hearts'."

Earlier in the day, the Archbishop called on all politicians to stop using asylum-seekers as party political footballs. "I know there are many people who are seeking asylum who have come from very tragic circumstances, and I would like to think that this is a country that can open its doors a little bit to them, but I do appreciate that it can only be done within certain limits," he told GMTV's Sunday Programme.

"What can be done with realism and generosity should be done. I would deprecate emotive language to demonise each other. It is something that should be cross-party, that all three parties should concur with and not try to make political points."

He spoke out after a week in which Conservatives made proposals for detention camps for asylum-seekers an issue in the run-up to local elections.

On the Sunday Programme, the Most Rev MurphyO'Connor also hinted that he believed the constitutional link between the state and the Church of England should be broken. While careful to stress that it was not his position to advise his colleagues in the Church of England on the issue, he said he thought it would be "wise" of them to consider their position.

"Does establishment really help them teach the Gospel? Would disestablishment in fact free them more?" he asked. "I think it is a serious question. I think it's something that they are engaged in and I think it wise that they do so."