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Welby warns of hero culture

05 April 2013


No hero: the Archbishop of Canterbury preaching at Canterbury Cathedral on Easter Day

No hero: the Archbishop of Canterbury preaching at Canterbury Cathedral on Easter Day

THE idea that he can resolve the problems of the Church of England is "barking mad", the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, said in his Easter sermon, which warned of the dangers of "hero leader culture".

Speaking in Canterbury Cathedral, Archbishop Welby suggested that "pinning hopes on individuals is always a mistake. . . We have to know God as well as human beings, or we are left with cynical despair." He referred to a survey carried out for Premier Radio, which found that 42 per cent of the 535 "practising Christians" interviewed thought that he would improve the image of the Church. "I do hope that means that the other 60 per cent thought the idea [that he could solve the Church's problems] so barking mad that they did not answer the question," he said.

A "joyful and celebratory" Church was "based not in vain optimism, but in the certainty that God raised Jesus from the dead and will also raise us. As a result, we know our fallibility, and become merciful with each other."

The survey also reported that more two-thirds of respondents thought that the Church needed a new image.

Another poll, published on Maundy Thursday by YouGov, suggested that only 24 per cent of re- spondents described as "British Christians" planned to attend church on Easter Day. Almost half (49 per cent) of those questioned said that spending time with friends and family was the most important part of Easter.

In his Easter message, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, said: "I do not think that as a Church we have begun to appreciate the impact of social media. Facebook has been the most successful missionary movement of the past few years." He admitted that, "in this new world, the guidance of those like myself who have only just discovered steel nibs is of limited usefulness. We must open the doors to the young."

On Good Friday, 5000 people were in Trafalgar Square to watch a two-hour dramatisation of the Passion organised by the Bible Society and the Wintershall Trust, a Christian theatre troupe from Surrey. James Burke-Dunsmore, who played Jesus in the low temperatures, commented: "It's the love that generates the warmth. You can't get cold when you're celebrating something joyful."

On Maundy Thursday, Pope Francis visited the Casa del Marmo youth-detention centre outside Rome to wash the feet of 12 inmates, including those of two women.

The Turin Shroud was shown on television for only the second time in history, on Holy Saturday. In a broadcast message, Pope Francis referred to the "icon" with a face which "resembles all those faces of men and women marred by a life which does not respect their dignity".

On Easter morning, before the service in Canterbury, Archbishop Welby presented the breakfast show on Classic FM, choosing pieces including Howard Goodall's theme tune to The Vicar of Dibley. The TV comedy was "a mixture of enormously humorous and occasionally quite painfully close to the bone", he said. He revealed that during his earlier ministry, his lack of musicianship caused problems: "the choir used to draw lots to see who had to sit next to me, because I put them off so badly."

Angela Tilby

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