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Factfile: What are credit unions?

The Church of England plans to expand credit unions as an alternative to payday lenders - but what are they?

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Baptism a 'hugely important' moment for Prince George

The Archbishop of Canterbury will baptise Prince George. Credit: PA Wire

The Archbishop of Canterbury said the baby son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would be joining two billion people around the world in the "family of the church" when he baptises him tomorrow at St James's Palace in central London.

The father-of-five, and former oil executive said the ceremony would mark the next "hugely important" moment in Prince George's life following his birth on July 22.

Mr Welby, who has already spoken of the "great privilege and honour" of baptising George, said he was sure that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would have received so much advice that they could "probably fill a house with it."

He said: "My message to them would be - what a treat, what an amazing gift, what wonderful times that you will have.

"There'll be great times and tough times - there always are with children.

"Through christening you're bringing God into the middle of it all, and I know that when he's in the middle of it all somehow it's held in his hands, and that's extraordinary."

Archbishop warns MPs not to rush Syria decision

The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned MPs not to rush their decision on whether to vote for military intervention in the Syria conflict.

Ahead of tomorrow's early return to Parliament, the Most Rev Justin Welby said he feared the possible consequences of intervention, saying they were "beyond description and horrible".

Free Syrian Army fighters carry weapons as they take up positions during an offensive against forces loyal to Syria's President.
Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev Justin Welby has warned MPs not to rush their decision on Syria. Credit: REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

He told the Daily Telegraph: "I have had a lot of conversations with people in the region.

"I think the overwhelming sense is of a really moving and terrible sense of fear about what might come out of, what might be happening in the next few weeks - not predicated on people doing one thing or people doing another, just a sense that this a terribly, terribly dangerous time."

However, the Archbishop acknowledged that the Government was better informed than he was, making clear that he had no sense that politicians were "slavering" to "unleash the dogs of war".

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Archbishop's rejection comes as big blow to RSPCA

The RSPCA has been accused of becoming too politicised in its pursuit of animal welfare causes. Credit: Sean Dempsey/PA Archive

The Archbishop of Canterbury's decision to turn down the role of vice-patron of the RSPCA will set back an organisation that has endured some negative recent press.

The animal charity has been accused of being heavy-handed in its approach to pet-owners and of allegedly pursuing criminal convictions to increase its revenue.

It was also accused of wasting public donations by spending £326,000 in pursuing legal action against fox hunters in the Cotswolds last year.

Welby snubs RSPCA for causes which need him more

A spokeswoman for Lambeth Palace has explained the Archbishop of Canterbury's decision not to follow his predecessors in accepting the role of vice-patron of the RSPCA.

Since taking office in March this year, the Archbishop has received many kind invitations to patron a large variety of charities and good causes. Each invitation has been an honour, and in an ideal world he would like to accept them all.

However, in light of the sheer volume of the requests the Archbishop receives, and the many pressures on his time and resources, he has reluctantly decided to restrict his patronage to a manageable number of organisations, based on where he feels his support could be most beneficial.

– Spokeswoman for Lambeth Palace

She added: "Nevertheless, the Archbishop has enormous admiration for the RSPCA and hopes to see its work thrive long into the future."

Archbishop of Canterbury snubs traditional RSPCA role

The Most Rev Justin Welby's predecessor, Dr Rowan Williams, accepted the vice-patron role. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The Archbishop of Canterbury has broken with tradition and turned down a post as vice-patron of the RSPCA, which has faced criticism for its recent bullish pursuit of animal welfare issues.

The animal charity, which was founded by an Anglican priest in 1824, has been accused of wasting donations on legal action.

Lambeth Palace said the Most Rev Justin Welby has "enormous admiration" for the RSPCA but had declined the invitation as he has "reluctantly decided to restrict his patronage".

Church 'speaking for the poor' against payday lenders

The Church of England is "speaking for the poor" in its opposition to payday lenders, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said he had received an "unusual" number of positive responses since he told short-term, high-cost credit firm Wonga that the Church wants to "compete" it out of existence as part of its plans to expand credit unions.

Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend Justin Welby. Credit: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Speaking at an event organised by the New Wine church movement, in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, the Archbishop said: "The last few days have been astonishing with this affair over the payday lenders.

"For a start, the positive comments have outweighed the negative - which in the letters that come to me is unusual.

"What people have commented on is a church speaking for the poor. And when the Church is real, people pay attention."

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Johnson: Welby's credit plans 'a wonderful idea'

Boris Johnson backed Justin Welby's plans. Credit: PA

Mayor of London Boris Johnson backed the Archbishop of Canterbury's plans to compete payday lenders "out of existence" and said it was an "interesting interpretation of the gospels".

"I think it's a wonderful idea," he told Channel 4 News.

"Wonga is a perfectly legitimate business but there's no doubt their rates are usurious. There are people who find it very, very difficult to repay the loans once they get into trouble.

"He's not turning over the tables of the money lenders, he's bringing in his own money lending tables. It's a very interesting interpretation of the gospels."

Church of England owns shares in scores of companies

The Church of England holds millions of pounds worth of shares in companies in everything from oil to pharmaceuticals and technology as part of an investment portfolio worth around £7.5 billion, documents show.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Credit: Press Association

Google, Apple, Shell, BP, GlaxoSmithKline and Vodafone are among the companies backed by the Church's three bodies that manage and administer investments, according to documents available on its website.

Others include mining firms Rio Tinto and Anglo American, food producer Nestle and British supermarket Tesco.Ecclesiastic financial activity is monitored by the Church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG), which makes recommendations on ethical investment policy.

Watch: Church to conduct review of its investments following Wonga revelation

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