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‘Someone to get angry with’: Dr Williams bows out

04 January 2013


Exit strategy: the Archbishop of Canterbury, accompanied by his wife, Jane, and son, Pip, leaves Canterbury Cathedral after his final eucharist as Archbishop of Canterbury

Exit strategy: the Archbishop of Canterbury, accompanied by his wife, Jane, and son, Pip, leaves Canterbury Cathedral after his final eucharist as A...

RISKING "unpopularity" and "flak" is "the stuff of the job" of an Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Williams said in a programme broadcast on New Year's Day, the day after his archiepiscopate ended.

In Goodbye to Canterbury, on BBC2, Dr Williams said that he had come to realise "that maybe Britain benefits from having someone to get angry with", and that nothing had prepared him for "the level of public scrutiny" of being Archbishop.

"All your mistakes and errors of judgement are out there in public straight away," he said. "If you say anything silly, or anything that can be made to sound silly, it's out there immediately for comment, with plenty of people to tell you exactly what you should have said or should have done. So these years have been more about old-fashioned patience than martyrdom."

In the programme, Dr Williams also spoke of his opposition to the Iraq war in 2003. Once war had broken out, and troops were on the ground, Dr Williams decided not to "sound off from a distance". He had tried to focus the debate on what an exit to the war would look like, "what would justice after the war look like", which left him "satisfying nobody. . . People who think you ought to be swinging behind the Government are disappointed; people who think you ought always to be making loud and clear noises about global ethics will be disappointed.

"But I still think it's a path worth treading, because the important thing about Archbishops speaking in public is, I believe, they shouldn't ever be speaking in ways that have no cost, when other people are paying a price."

In a separate message, also broadcast on BBC2 on New Year's Day, Dr Williams spoke of the volunteers who "worked away, without complaint, all hours of the day and night" during the Olympics and Paralympics. At social projects run by churches, Dr Williams said, religion "isn't a social problem or an old-fashioned embarrassment: it's a wellspring of energy, and a source of life-giving vision for how people should be regarded and treated".

On Boxing Day, it was announced that, like his predecessors, Dr Williams would recieve a life peerage on his retirement as Archbishop. His title will be Baron Williams of Oystermouth in the City and County of Swansea. Dr Williams will be installed as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, this month (Feature).

Now that Dr Williams's archiepiscopate has ended, the pro- cess leading up to the enthronement of his successor, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Justin Welby ( News, 16 November), will begin.

The College of Canons of Canterbury Cathedral will meet on Thursday of next week to elect Bishop Welby as the new Archbishop, having received the Congé d'Elire from the Crown confirming that the See of Canterbury is vacant.

A statement from Lambeth Palace said: "A legal ceremony, the Confirmation of Election, will take place on 4 February 2013 at St Paul's Cathedral. The Dean of Canterbury will confirm to a commission of diocesan bishops that Bishop Justin has been elected according to statute. At this point, the office of Archbishop is conferred on Justin Welby - until then he remains Bishop of Durham.

"The Enthronement will take place on 21 March 2013 at Canterbury Cathedral. The new Archbishop will be placed on two thrones - the diocesan throne in the Cathedral Quire as the Bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury, and the Chair of St Augustine as Archbishop of Canterbury."

THE Archbishops of Canterbury and York have called on the Government to improve the lot of elderly people, writes Paul Wilkinson.

In his last speech in the House of Lords before stepping down as Archbishop, Dr Williams said that the quality of life of older people was an issue that was "pressing and still largely ignored".

He told peers: "We are becoming dangerously used to speaking and thinking of 'an ageing population' as a problem - a burden on the public purse and private resources alike." Considering old people as "essentially passive" was a "damaging stereotype".

In fact, the older generation played a vital voluntary part in communities, and their efforts in "caring and family maintenance" were estimated to be worth £50 billion to the economy. "More than half the over-60 population are involved in some sort of formal and structured voluntary work," he said.

"Over half of the population believes that this is part of what they should aspire to in later life, and a third are willing to take part in informal volunteering. It means, quite simply, that a majority of the older population are ready to do what they can, unpaid, to support the fabric of society."

Dr Williams went on: "It is assumptions about the basically passive character of the older population that foster attitudes of contempt and exasperation, and ultimately create a climate in which abuse occurs."

He highlighted work done by the Older People's Commissioner for Wales, Ruth Marks, who estimated that one in four elderly people had suffered abuse. "It's worth considering whether the model of an older people's commissioner is one that Wales might helpfully lend to other parts of the United Kingdom."

Writing in The Daily Telegraph last week, Dr Sentamu supported Dr Williams. "Catastrophic care costs fall on those very people who are struggling with the greatest level of sickness and frailty. I do not believe that is morally right. . . It is time for this Coalition Government to step up to the challenge and give the gift of dignity and peace of mind to the frailest members of our society."


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