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Welby calls for ‘peace with justice and security’ in Holy Land

28 June 2013


Sacred site: the Archbishop of Canterbury prays at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem, on Wednesday, reading Psalm 15 from his personal prayer book

Sacred site: the Archbishop of Canterbury prays at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem, on Wednesday, reading Psalm 15 from his personal prayer book

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has called for "full access" to the holy sites of Jerusalem, and spoken of the need for "peace with justice and security" in the Middle East.

Archbishop Welby spoke to Christian leaders in the Peace Garden at St George's Cathedral, Jerusalem, on Wednesday evening, during a five-day visit to the Middle East. In an apparent reference to the security wall, he said: "It is essential that Jerusalem remains an open city, with full access to the religious sites which are holy to three faiths. And it is essential that round the world we support those who bear the burden of ensuring the openness of those holy sites and who are the stewards of this place in the face of challenges that are different in each generation.

"Those challenges will in the end . . .  only be faced with clear speaking and can only be achieved when there is peace with justice and security for all the people of the region. Where people are left out, there will be no security, no justice, no peace."

Speaking before Archbishop Welby, the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Suheil Dawani, said "it is peace that we seek, it is peace that we need, and it is peace that we work toward. A peace that is not merely the absence of tension, but is accompanied by justice."

Bishop Dawani said that Archbishop Welby's visit "affirms the historic and continuing important presence of the Anglican Church in the land of the Holy One. When I sent you an invitation to come to Jerusalem, even before your consecration, you said, 'Yes, my first visit will be for Jerusalem and the Holy Land.'"

On Wednesday, Archbishop Welby prayed at the Western Wall, reading Psalm 15 from his personal prayer book. He has also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine. On Thursday morning, he visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, where he said: "This is not a place for words, but for tears and remembering."

Archbishop Welby set off for the Middle East on Sunday, his first official visit as Archbishop. Lambeth Palace said that he was visiting the region early in his archiepiscopate "because of the significance of the region, the importance of the relationships that his Office has there, and because he is keenly aware of the particular pressures on the region at the moment - not least the devastating conflict in Syria, and its impact more widely".

Archbishop Welby visited Cairo on Monday, at the invitation of the President-Bishop in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis. The Archbishop met Coptic Pope Tawadros II at his official residence. Both expressed "delight that official theological dialogue aimed at visible unity and witness was once again part of Anglican-Oriental Orthodox relations", Lambeth Palace said. 

He had also had "the opportunity to express the prayer and solidarity of the Anglican Communion with all the Christians of the Middle East as they seek the common good of their various nations".

 Archbishop Welby also met the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheik Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb, whom he described as "committed to the work he does in interfaith dialogue . . . and a deep concern for all the people of the region, whatever their background".

Archbishop Welby preached in All Saints' (Anglican) Cathedral, Cairo, at a graduation service for the Alexandria School of Theology.

In an interview with the Middle East Christian broadcaster SAT-7, on Monday, Archbishop Welby spoke of a national protest against President Mohammed Morsi, which is scheduled to take place on Sunday. He said: "This is a time for turning to God and seeking his love, and his compassion and his goodness. . . Do not let uncertainty result in fear which drives us apart, but through unity overcome fear."

On Tuesday, Archbishop Welby met the Foreign Minister of Jordan, Nasser Judeh, in Amman, the Jordainian capital. He was accompanied by Bishop Dawani, whose diocese includes the Kingdom of Jordan. Lambeth Palace said that Archbishop Welby and Mr Judeh had spoken about "political instability and conflict in the Middle East, and the needs of the various historic religious communities in the region", as well as "the grave situation in Syria, and the huge numbers of Syrian refugees who have been taken in by Jordan".


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