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Archbishop: We're addicted to wealth and shallow celebrities

ANOTHER leading churchman last night warned of society's growing obsession with wealth and shallow celebrity culture.

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin the Most Reverend Dr John Neill used his New Year message to note the desire for instant gratification and said Ireland was at risk of becoming a nation that has lost its way.

Echoing remarks by Cardinal Sean Brady last week, Dr Neill said many people will experience mixed emotions at this time of year, including relief the previous year is over and feelings of hope, uncertainty or fear about what lies ahead.

"Many such attitudes are shaped by the various economic forecasts that bombard us," he said.

"We are as a nation more exposed than ever to this rollercoaster of feelings as our value system becomes increasingly linked to wealth, instant gratification and a shallow celebrity culture.

"The drug culture that has recently come to public attention is indeed about addiction, but it is also about wealth, instant self-gratification and criminal activity including mindless violence and murder.

"We watch the highs and lows of the lives of others with intensity, though often without asking deeper questions.

"We are learning how quickly we are being sucked into a society that has lost its way.''

Archbishop Neill warned that the desires of modern life are far removed from Christian teaching.

"In place of the inner peace that can change people, we have substituted the perpetual restlessness that destroys," he said.

But he said the New Year should be looked upon as an opportunity for change.

The Archbishop added: "Some 1,600 years ago, St Augustine, mindful of his own life before he became a follower of Jesus, uttered this prayer, 'You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.'

"New Year is an opportunity to ponder a new direction.''

Dr Neill echoed Cardinal Sean Brady's Christmas message.

The Archbishop of Armagh last week said Christmas is to remind the faithful that there is no price tag on happiness.

Cocaine

Our newfound wealth has created a "false hope" in the guise of cocaine and other illicit drugs used by some, while others are struggling for mere survival, he said.

"We have new forms of substance abuse which now take their place alongside our regrettable reputation for the abuse of alcohol. Cocaine and other illegal drugs have become a real threat to our happiness and our cohesion as a society. They offer a false hope and a false escape from the pressures of life," he said.

However, he said there are many reasons to be hopeful as 2007 draws to a close.

"We continue to have one of the strongest and most robust economies in the world. We should be very grateful for that," he added.

Cardinal Brady is expected to make his New Year's message tomorrow.