LONDON Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, accused society's richest people on Saturday of failing to share the pain of the economic crisis and public spending cuts.
In his Christmas Day sermon at Canterbury Cathedral in southeast England, Williams said Britain will only be able to cope with the economic fallout if people are confident that the hardship is being shared fairly.
In a wide-ranging sermon that included prayers for Christians being persecuted in Iraq and Zimbabwe, Williams said he also saw signs of hope for the year ahead. The marriage of Prince William, second in line to the throne, and Kate Middleton in April 2011 will be a "profoundly joyful event," he said.
"It is certainly cause for celebration that any couple, let alone this particular couple, should want to embark on the adventure of Christian marriage, because any and every Christian marriage is a sign of hope, since it is a sign and sacrament of God's own committed love," he said.
CRISES OF TRUST
Britain's coalition government is cutting public spending by 81 billion pounds in four years to try to cut a record peacetime budget deficit running close to 10 percent of national output.
The austerity drive is expected to lead to the loss of 330,000 public sector jobs and cuts to many welfare and benefit payments.
"Confidence isn't in huge supply at the moment, given the massive crises of trust that have shaken us all in the last couple of years and the lasting sense that the most prosperous have yet to shoulder their load," Williams said.
"We shall have that confidence only if there are signs that everyone is committed to their neighbour."
The archbishop urged people to avoid selfishly trying to protect themselves at the expense of others when the cuts bite.
"Faced with the hardship that quite clearly lies ahead for so many in the wake of financial crisis and public spending cuts, how far are we able to sustain a living sense of loyalty to each other, a real willingness to bear the load together?," he said.
Williams, who became the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002, has previously criticised parts of the financial services sector for practices that threatened to destabilise society.