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President Putin ‘opened the gates of hell’ for the world, says Welby

19 December 2022


Archbishop Welby arriving at the BBC before his appearance on Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg

Archbishop Welby arriving at the BBC before his appearance on Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg

THE Russian invasion of Ukraine “opened the gates of hell” and unleashed evil around the world, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Archbishop Welby was speaking on Sunday morning when he was a panellist on BBC1’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

He said that, during a recent visit to Ukraine (News, 2 December), he had been struck by seeing the mass grave in Bucha, and hearing of the massacres and torture carried out by the occupying Russian forces. The occupiers were driven by “an ideology of conquest”, he said, and “getting historic Ukraine back”. It was important for the UK to support the Ukrainian resistance, “because, essentially . . . if they [the Ukrainians] go, it’s not going to stop”.

Twenty years spent working in areas of severe conflict had taught him that “you can’t talk about reconciliation while the guns are firing, because people are just concentrating on whether they’re alive for the next 20 minutes.” The Ukrainians whom he had met had told him that, “‘for us, that word [reconciliation] means surrender, and we’re not going to do that.’ There is a way forward, and that’s withdrawal and ceasefire by Russian forces.”

The Archbishop went on to link the war in Ukraine with problems in other countries, including the UK. “When Ukraine was invaded, at the decision of President Putin, the gates of hell were opened, and every evil force came out across the world,” he said. “I was in Mozambique the week before I was in Ukraine [News, 25 November], where there’s famine all the way up the East African coast. There’s inflation, as we know, in this country; there’s an energy crisis; there’s cold, there’s suffering, the shortage of drugs. . . Everything evil has been unleashed. And, until there is withdrawal and ceasefire, we can’t make progress on reconciliation.”

Archbishop Welby was also asked about whether reconciliation could be achieved between members of the royal family, in light of the Netflix documentary about the Duke of Duchess and Sussex, in which they were highly critical of their treatment.

“I can’t really comment on it, because I married them, and there’s some pastoral confidentiality,” the Archbishop said. “There’s always a way forward, but it has to be at the right time. As a Christian, I live in the belief that forgiveness comes from God through Jesus Christ, and that, particularly at this time of year, God breaks into the world to open the way to forgiveness through the Christ Child. But the way we welcome that opportunity is different for everyone, and there has to be a right time.”

Asked earlier in the programme about public-sector strikes, he said: “It seems that there’s strife everywhere at the moment, and, in this country and around the world, we’re seeing that in a very serious way. At a time of real difficulty like this, for so many people, the biggest challenge is to have a vision for this country that enables us to come together and grow together.”

Archbishop Welby said that society had become “very unforgiving” of people who made mistakes, who were “crucified”. “People suffer hugely when they go wrong, not just with public exposure, but the awful trolling that goes on, and the inability to accept apologies, to seek forgiveness — those are really difficult things.”

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