PEOPLE in towns such as Port Talbot will be “crushed” if the steelworks are allowed to close, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, told the Governing Body during his President’s address.
If it had been worth saving the banking industry, it was worth the Government’s intervening to secure the future of the steel industry, he argued. “The danger is that if all steel-making plants are closed, once they are gone the price of steel will increase, and that will have far reaching repercussions on our economy and industry.
“It will be too late by then. and people in places like Port Talbot, whose lives and communities have been shaped by the steel industry, will have been crushed.”
This was not just a problem for Port Talbot. or even Wales: it was a crisis for the whole of the UK, Dr Morgan said. The UK should look at how other nations subsidised steel production, imposed tariffs on steel imports, and kept energy costs down for steel production.
His comments came as part of a wide-ranging address, which urged those in the room and across the Church in Wales to take part in a number of key political debates, and not let their faith be purely personal.
Elections to the Welsh Assembly are to be held next month, and Christians had a moral duty to exercise their right to vote; a right which was “won at a price”, he reminded members of the Governing Body.
“One thing that should cause concern is that some politicians, with no connection with, or interest in, Wales, up until now, are using these elections to pursue their own agendas and further their own careers. That cannot be of benefit to Wales.”
When it came to the referendum on the EU in June, Welsh churchpeople should focus on the principles at stake, he said, not “how things feel on the spur of the moment”. He reminded the Body that the EU came into being to pursue peace and the rule of law, and urged them to ensure that the debate included more than simply immigration and economics.
On more personal matters, he thanked all those people — more than 1000 — who wrote to him to express their condolences after his wife, Hilary, died of cancer in January.
He expressed astonishment that the words “cancer” and “death” still held a stigma for so many people, despite living in a world where the reality of death and violence confronted them daily.
“Unless we, as Christians, are willing to face the reality, and the finality, in one sense, of death, who is going to?” he asked.
“We knew what lay ahead, but Hilary kept on maintaining that I was in denial; and, as I look back, I see that I was. As she put it: ‘You keep on thinking and hoping it is not going to happen, and it is no good thinking like that, because it is, and we have to face it.’”
Dr Morgan praised those Christians he knew, including his wife, who managed to face a diagnosis of a terminal disease with courage, and chose to live out their last days with vigour and generosity.
Nursing Hilary over the past year had further convinced him to oppose assisted dying, he said. “Palliative care and the hospice movement have come a long way in 50 years, and pain can now be alleviated.”
The care and gentleness of the nurses who came to his house each day to look after his wife showed him how it was possible to have a good death, at home, in peace.
“The grieving process is a natural process. Even though one may believe that death is not the end, that does not stop the heartache of missing those whom we love. Grieving is the cost of commitment, the cost of loving.”