THE Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, attracted criticism this week when he wrote a column for the first edition of The Sun on Sunday, saying that the newspaper represented a “fresh start”.
The Sun on Sunday replaces the News of the World, which was closed by Rupert Murdoch in July last year after revelations about phone-hacking at the newspaper. On Monday, the Leveson inquiry into media standards was told by the Metropolitan Police’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Sue Akers, of a “culture of illegal payments” to public officials at The Sun.
A spokesman for Dr Sentamu said on Tuesday that he was on retreat, and so would not yet be aware of Ms Akers’s comments. He said that Dr Sentamu was approached to write for the first edition of The Sun on Sunday, with the option to continue writing, but “there is no indication about anything going forward.”
He said: “The Archbishop has written for The Sun for a number of years; it is not a new thing. He is trying to reach a wider audience. With all the articles he writes, his intent is to get the gospel message to them, to reach out to people who aren’t necessarily in the Church.”
In his column, Dr Sentamu said that he expected that he would be criticised “for writing in a newspaper which will be seen by many as filling the gap left by the News of the World. However, I am always one for responding to change positively and embracing new beginnings — seeing the best in all people, especially in adversity.”
The column spoke in glowing terms of The Sun: “When I think that we can now get the latest news, politics and sports stories seven days a week from our country’s favourite paper, all I can say is ‘WOW!’”
It also included a section that promoted Fairtrade products, and criticism of the Government’s plans to encourage young people to take up unpaid placements in companies. “We can encourage people to volunteer, but a worker should be worthy of their wages.”
Dr Sentamu wrote on Twitter: “As with all my newspaper articles, all proceeds for writing my column in The Sun will be donated to St Leonard’s Hospice in York.”
A number of Dr Sentamu’s followers on Twitter, including some clergy, expressed dismay at his endorsement of The Sun on Sunday. On Monday, the Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, wrote: “All my instincts lead me to take a different view from that of the Archbishop of York on this one.”
Bishop Baines said that he did not question Dr Sentamu’s motive “for writing the article and engaging with the paper in this way”, but said: “I could not endorse the paper myself.” He went on to criticise strongly how News International, which owns The Sun, had handled the investigation into phone-hacking.
The Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd John Davies, speaking on BBC1’s Big Questions on Sunday morning, said that he was “not impressed” by Dr Sentamu’s article. “I’m quite frankly astonished that he’s actually saying it, particularly having seen the content of the paper. . . and I think he ought to reflect on doing so and change his mind.”
Dr Sentamu’s director of communications from 2006 to 2009, the Revd Arun Arora, who is now a Pioneer Minister in Wolverhampton city centre, defended Dr Sentamu’s decision to write for the newspaper. In a blog post on Sunday, he argued that writing for The Sun gave the Archbishop “the opportunity to preach the gospel to six million people. . . Jesus went where the people were. He didn’t just stay in the temple and expect the people to come to him.”
Question of the week: Was Dr Sentamu right to praise The Sun?