Christian leaders urge calm and faith in time of 'fear'

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Media captionJustin Welby said the world was less predictable and more uncertain than it was at the start of 2016

God can chase away "the fear of terror" and "the economies of injustice", the Archbishop of Canterbury has said in his Christmas sermon.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby spoke about finding God in a world which "feels more awash with fear".

His sentiment was echoed by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Britain's most senior Catholic, at his midnight Mass.

In his homily at Westminster Cathedral he said there was "much anxiety about the state of the world".

Mr Welby delivered his sermon during a Eucharist service at Canterbury Cathedral on Christmas Day.

'Glory of God'

In the sermon, he told the congregation that the end of 2016 "finds us all in a different kind of world, one less predictable and certain, which feels more awash with fear and division".

He quoted Bank of England governor Mark Carney who said globalisation had for many brought "uncertainty" and "low wages, insecure employment, stateless corporation and striking inequalities".

He said: "That uncertainty of our world, our feelings tells us that our values are in the wrong place.

"Economic progress, technological progress, communication progress hasn't resulted in economic justice. It hasn't delivered glory for us."


By Martin Bashir, religious affairs correspondent

The traditional sound of Once in Royal David's City heralded the start of a solemn Midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral.

Cardinal Vincent Nichol began his sermon by quoting the poet WB Yeats - referring to a turbulent year.

"Uncertainty on many levels in this country and in those major partnerships and neighbours that we have… so with Europe, America, the Middle East. It's an unsettling time," he said.

He argued the answer was neither materialism nor the pursuit of selfish interest but rather a renewed focus on the life of Christ.

"The birth of Jesus is a recorded fact, marked in time, as we heard in the Gospel," Cardinal Nichols said. "The life he holds out for us is not a theory or a philosophy or an ideal."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, also addressed the uncertainty that has marked global politics, saying that anxiety about the future is a clear sign that we have placed our trust in the wrong things.

The archbishop drew on his personal experiences of meeting "persecuted believers" who, he says, have "seen the glory of God, a glory that chases away the fear of terror".

He added: "How then do we find glory? The only place and person who can bring glory to us is the child of Bethlehem who became the victim on the cross."

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Image caption The Archbishop of Westminster called for more compassion for the elderly

In a similar vein, Cardinal Nichols spoke at midnight Mass of a "deep and widening sense of uncertainty" felt by many people.

"Yes, we are anxious of the current instability in economic prospects and in the effectiveness of political structures," he said.

"But here we come to a deeper centre, to Bethlehem, to Him who shows us the foundations on which we must build, the priorities we must seek."

He urged Catholics to show compassion to "the homeless, the refugee, the victim of violence and human trafficking", and in particular, older people, who were too often left alone without human contact.

"Meeting this challenge requires a recognition that good care for the elderly and vulnerable is not only important but nothing less than a defining characteristic of our society," he added.

Image caption The Archbishop of York says people can face the future with hope with God's help

The Church of England's second most senior figure, Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, also urged those worried about Brexit and the US presidential election to look to God.

Writing for the Yorkshire Post, he said: "In the midst of uncertainty and personal danger, I can testify to the fact that God will never leave us or forsake us. God will always show us a way."

Meanwhile, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland the Right Reverend Dr Russell Barr discussed the contrasts of Christmas, and how the promise of Christmas cheer was juxtaposed with "unspeakable human suffering in war-torn Aleppo or Yemen or South Sudan".