Church leaders stress justice at the heart of Christmas message

By staff writers
25 Dec 2013

Both the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, two of Britain's senior church leaders, have focussed on justice at home and abroad in their Christmas morning sermons.

“Even in a recovering economy, Christians, the servants of a vulnerable and poor Saviour, need to act to serve and love the poor: they need also to challenge the causes of poverty," said Archbishop Justin Welby at Canterbury Cathedral on Christmas Day 2013.

“Prospect magazine had a poll this month that suggested the church is more trusted on politics than religion. But the two cannot be separated.

“Christ's birth is not politics, it is love expressed." The Christian response is not political in an exclusive sense, but "love delivered in hope," he declared.

“The action of the churches in the last five years is extraordinary, reaching out in ways not seen since 1945.

“Yet no society can be content where misery and want exist, unless through our love collectively we also challenge the greed and selfishness behind it,” he said.

Turning to the Middle East and North Africa region, he referred to the injustice faced by contemporary Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, the traditionally ascribed birthplace of Christ.

“We see injustice in the ever more seriously threatened Christian communities of the Middle East," said Archbishop Welby.

“They are attacked and massacred, driven into exile from a region in which their presence has always been essential.

“We see terrible news in South Sudan, where political ambitions have led towards ethnic conflict.

“On Saturday I was speaking to a bishop under siege, in a compound full of the dying. God's passionate love for the vulnerable is found in the baby in a manger in a country at war.

“If that was His home, today it must be our care,” he said

Meanwhile, Catholic Archbishop Vincent Nichols pointed out: “Christians are the most widely persecuted religious group in the world today and this evening we think especially of the Middle East, especially of Egypt, Iraq and Syria.

"As Prince Charles said last week: 'Christianity was literally born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters'.

"We come to this Cathedral this evening freely and relatively easily, ready to give a simple act of witness to our faith.

“But for many going to church is an act of life-risking bravery. We thank them and seek to be inspired by their courageous faith."

“We know how much we need to repair and strengthen the bond of our universal brotherhood, our common humanity so that everywhere and always we see each other as a brother and a sister, children of a common Father who loves each one as much as every other and asks us to do likewise,” he added.

Recalling Pope Francis' words, "God tells us to have hope", Archbishop Nichols said.

“This is so important as of ourselves we can easily lose heart. But God always open doors for us, he never closes them,” he concluded in his homily on the significance of the birth of Christ.

* Christmas on Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/christmas

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