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As the Islamist group Boko Haram is said to be surrounding the city of Maiduguri in the latest stage of its campaign of violence against Christians and Muslims alike, an expert on the country considers why the authorities are powerless to halt its progress
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Archbishops echoed Pope Francis’ call for a compassionate Church that serves the most vulnerable at Midnight Masses in England last night.
The Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, urged Catholics to follow the Pope's example and look after people who were “urban remnants … outcasts or leftovers.”
Christian communities must befriend and support migrants and refugees in particular, he added.
“Every Christmas the details of the Nativity story urge us to be people and communities that do welcome others, especially the stranger who is in need, and to pray for those who are far from their homes and their loved ones for many different reasons,” he said.
Both Archbishop Longley and the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, prayed for persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
“Churches in Iraq and Syria, in Egypt and in the Holy Land itself feel that there is now no room for them,” said Archbishop Longley.
Archbishop Nichols, in his homily for Midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral, said that Christians are the most widely persecuted religious group in the world.
He said: “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.’”
Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has called on Christians to take an active role in fighting injustice.
He said church could not be separated from politics. “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.
Archbishop Welby also reflected on the plight of threatened communities in the Middle East where he said Christians were “attacked and massacred, driven into exile.”
Read the full text of Archbishop Nichols' address here
Read the full text of Archbishop Longley's address here (via Birmingham archdiocesan website)