Church leaders in Hong Kong yesterday urged people to put compassion and virtue above self-interest and materialism to help solve growing social problems. Archbishop Peter Kwong Kong-kit, head of the Hong Kong Anglican Church, also known as the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, said the noble qualities that had appeared during the Sars outbreak and back in the 1940s and 1950s were absent in today's Hong Kong because of materialism. 'Hong Kong has many problems these days. Most problems stem from putting the economy in an elevated position,' he said. Archbishop Kwong said the most serious problem was that more importance was placed on success and wealth than on virtue. 'The economy exists for people and not vice versa,' he said. The Sars outbreak had aroused compassion and virtue but people quickly reverted to their own hidden agendas when the crisis was over, the archbishop said. 'The real driving force to assist Hong Kong is justice and compassion.' Archbishop Kwong also noted the high number of suicides and murder cases recently in Hong Kong. 'This is not an individual problem anymore, but rather has become a problem for society as a whole, with far-reaching consequences.' He called for people to be given opportunities to use their hidden talents to help re-establish the meaning of life. Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, called for people to give more care to the less fortunate. 'The poor get poorer and there is a widespread sense of helplessness.' He said many people were not working for the common good but for their own interests. 'Let us use every effort to make our Christmas more meaningful - to be close at least to one poor or sick person, or to the handicapped, or to a brother in prison,' he said.