25/12/2011 02:48 GMT | Updated 25/12/2011 10:31 GMT

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams' Christmas Message

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke today of the "broken bonds and abused trust" in a British society torn apart by riots and financial speculation.

Delivering his Christmas Day sermon from Canterbury Cathedral, Rowan Williams asked the congregation to learn lessons about "mutual obligation" from the events of the past year.

"The most pressing question we now face, we might well say, is who and where we are as a society. Bonds have been broken, trust abused and lost.

"Whether it is an urban rioter mindlessly burning down a small shop that serves his community, or a speculator turning his back on the question of who bears the ultimate cost for his acquisitive adventures in the virtual reality of today's financial world, the picture is of atoms spinning apart in the dark," he said.

It is not the first time the Archbishop has referred to last August's disturbances, which spread from Tottenham, north London, to cities across the country.

Writing in The Guardian this month, Dr Williams spoke about the "enormous sadness" he felt during the riots.

But he also said the Government should do more to rescue young people "who think they have nothing to lose".

The Church of England has also been caught up in the struggle between anti-capitalist protesters camped in front of St Paul's Cathedral since October and the Corporation of London, which is fighting a legal battle to disband the campsite.

After the Church initially gave support to the protesters, the canon chancellor of St Paul's, Dr Giles Fraser, resigned from his position on October 27 following reports suggesting a rift between clergy over what action to take concerning the activists.

And Dr Williams suggested last month he was sympathetic to a "Robin Hood tax" on share and currency transactions.

Today he used the Book of Common Prayer - which will celebrate its 350th anniversary next year - as an example of how ideas of duty and common interest can be expressed.

The archbishop quoted the Book of Common Prayer's Long Exhortation to say: "If ye shall perceive your offences to be such as are not only against God but also against your neighbours; then ye shall reconcile yourselves unto them; being ready to make restitution".