THE newly enthroned Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John, marked the formal start of his new ministry with an apology and a commitment.
Archbishop John, who remains the Bishop of Bangor, was enthroned in a national service at Bangor Cathedral on Saturday, although he has been serving as Archbishop since his election last December (News, 6 December).
In his enthronement sermon, the Archbishop referred to the war in Europe. “The bloodshed in Ukraine, sanctioned alarmingly by a part of the Church, has reminded us that it is less easy to keep the peace than to start a war. Contending for the truth is costly. Whenever justice is compromised, we become complicit in collaborating with evil.”
Archbishop John had called on the Russian Orthodox Church to condemn the invasion of Ukraine in his address to the Governing Body of the Church in Wales last week (News, 29 April).
The Christian approach to conflict was different, he said in his sermon. “When we resist evil and injustice — as we must — we also need something which takes us beyond the missiles, beyond conflict to a place where there can be reconciliation and a restoration of peace.”
It was this “power to do things differently” that he wanted to see used in the forging of the future for Wales and for the Church in Wales.
“We don’t have an unblemished record when it comes to the use and misuse of power,” Archbishop John continued. “We have let down survivors of abuse and failed to admit our shortcomings, preferring at times to protect our reputation above the individuals damaged by our neglect. We owe an apology to those whom we have failed — and make that apology unreservedly.
“We have also found working together as Churches, at anything more than a local life, to be problematic, and this is, surely, a sin. For my part, I want to invite colleagues to a conversation about ways in which, together, we can bless the people of Wales — in our shared commitment, in both our languages, to all our communities.”
He said that he would be writing to the other Churches in Wales “for honest conversations about where we are and how we can make the saving love of Jesus Christ more visible across this land”. He also issued an invitation to the leaders of the other faiths: “We need each other, and we can do more together than apart. . . How can we manage a future which proves better than our past?”
He also wished for that same spirit of humility and honesty to inform national political life in relation to such issues as climate change, housing, the cost of living, and the sustaining of the NHS. “There is a power in saying sorry and taking appropriate action so confidence and trust can be restored.”
Archbishop John ended the sermon on a personal note, describing how his youth had been inspired by Llanelli rugby and Liverpool football. “So this remains my deepest hope: that Wales can known redeeming love, never lose to Italy again at the National Stadium, Pep [Guardiola, the Manchester City manager] comes second, and that what lies before us is like the promised land of old — full of hope and promise.”