Archbishop of Canterbury highlights 'injustices' in Christmas speech

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Media captionArchbishop Welby: "Even this morning in Baghdad... a church was bombed and 15 more people testified to their faith in Jesus Christ with their lives"

The Archbishop of Canterbury has used his first Christmas Day sermon to highlight "injustices" facing Britain's poor and victims of world conflicts.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby, also condemned the treatment of Christian communities in the Middle East.

"They are driven into exile from a region in which their presence has always been essential," he will say.

The Archbishop of Westminster also talked about the plight of Christians who are persecuted for their faith.

Archbishop Welby, who was enthroned in March, spoke at morning service in Canterbury Cathedral.

He said: "Christians are attacked and massacred and 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."

The Archbishop challenged "the causes of poverty".

The former oil company executive - who this year launched a campaign against payday lending firms - referred to "injustices at home... even in a recovering economy".

He added: "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."

The Archbishop of Canterbury also posted a brief Christmas video message on the photo-sharing website Instagram and tweeted a link to the clip through his Twitter account.

He said: "Christmas means that, through Jesus, God shows unconditionally that he loves us. I pray that he gives you a very blessed Christmas."

Twitter campaign

Lambeth Palace said the video message was part of a Church of England campaign which aims to encourage congregations and clergy to let people know what they see as the "joy and meaning of Christmas".

It urges Anglicans across the world to complete the sentence: "Christmas means..." and send their message through Twitter.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, in his address, said many Christians, especially in the Middle East, were risking their lives to worship.

Speaking at Christmas midnight Mass in Westminster Cathedral, Archbishop Nichols told the congregation to give "a special thought and prayer" to those Christians.

"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," he said.

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Media captionThe Archbishop of Westminster has used his Christmas message to highlight the plight of Christians - Robert Pigott reports

During his speech, Archbishop Nichols cited similar concerns voiced by the Prince of Wales this month during a visit to the Coptic and Syrian Orthodox communities in Hertfordshire and London.

"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'," he said.

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

"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."

Meanwhile, in his Christmas message, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, described poverty as a stain on the conscience of the nation.

He added the Church still has a big influence on today's society and said an estimated 15 million people in England would attend services on Christmas Day.

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