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Archbishops and Pope direct their Easter prayers to the world’s conflict zones

01 April 2024


The Arch­bishop of Canterbury at the Easter-morning sung eucharist in Canterbury Cathedral

The Arch­bishop of Canterbury at the Easter-morning sung eucharist in Canterbury Cathedral

THE Church is not party political, but “nothing in this world” will stop it from obeying God’s will by taking and calling for action for those suffering in poverty and in conflict, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in his Easter sermon.

In recent years, Archbishop Welby has included criticism of certain aspects of government policy in his Easter sermon (News, 22 April 2022).

Preaching in Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday morning, he spoke of “moments which change us forever” — as the lives of the women and disciples were changed when Jesus died, and again when the tomb was found empty. “Everything changed. The universe shifted to a new mode of living.”

Suffering was part of the Christian faith, he said, and this suffering was a call to “love-in-action. It must be action driven by prayer, directed in wisdom.

“We will suffer in our broken world, because God did; but God’s life is always stronger than the worst deeds of this world. . . We must confront evil and pain. Whether it is the evil of people smugglers, or county lines in our schools, or the pain and suffering in a family riven with grief, or rage, or substance abuse.”

He continued: “The Church is not party political, for its members are all different in our politics. But we do not pick causes by opinion polls or human pressure: we show love in action and word because of who God is, revealed in Jesus.

“We act because of what God says, found in the Bible and to be lived out by the Church — in over 30,000 social projects — in 8000 food banks. We proclaim the righteousness of God who acts for the poor and vulnerable, for the rich and comfortable, with love and perfect justice for all, good and bad.

“Nothing in this world will stop us seeking to obey God faithfully, whatever the ridicule, the price, or the result, for Christ is risen and he will be our final and perfect judge.”

Archbishop Welby urged the congregation: “Therefore, let us seek action amongst the starving children of Gaza and Sudan — and the parents who try desperately to find food for them; action for the hostages held by Hamas; action for those in the trenches and cities and fears of Ukraine; action in at least 30 but probably closer to 50 other places of armed conflict; action for the 25-30 per cent of children in this country in poverty.

“Because God is revealed in Jesus, action-in-love means we must live sacrificially and generously, for others not ourselves.”

Preaching in York Minster, the Archbishop of York also spoke of “the terribly inequalities and depravities of our world, which means that, even in a country like ours, the sixth wealthiest in the world, child poverty and inequality continues to rise; asylum seekers fleeing terror and torture themselves are treated with indignity; where Christians in Gaza and the West Bank are not able to worship today as we are, where war foments, where antisemitism and Islamophobia are on the rise, where conflict smoulders — in the Holy Land itself, in Ukraine, Yemen and Sudan, in human hearts bent on endless retribution, unfound by grace, endlessly banging the table for what we have decided is just, but with no mercy whatsoever.

“This is the world where Christ is not recognised; where he reaches out to our sorrows and pleads with us to think again — but we do not listen, so conditioned [are we] by vengeful hatefulness and all that has proceeded from it, that we do not hear him calling our name, we do not see him standing among us.”

The only hope for the world, he said, was to look for Christ, “And to forgive, as he forgives.”

The Pope, in his annual Urbi et Orbi address to a packed St Peter’s Square in the Vatican, addressed many of the troubled areas of the world, among them Ukraine and Gaza, Syria and Lebanon, Haiti and Myanmar, the Caucasus, and large tracts of Africa.

“May the risen Christ open a path of hope to all those who in other parts of the world are suffering from violence, conflict, food insecurity, and the effects of climate change.”

With particular reference to Gaza, he said: “How much suffering we see in their eyes! With those eyes, they ask us: Why? Why all this death? Why all this destruction?”

War was always “a defeat” and “an absurdity. . . Let us not yield to the logic of weapons and rearming,” he said, and emphasised: “Peace is never made with arms, but with outstretched hands and open hearts.”

In a brief Easter message, the Prime Minister paid tribute to “the amazing work churches and Christian communities do in parishes across the country. Your values of compassion, service and family are at the heart of our national life,” he said.

Similarly, the leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, in his Easter message, described faith as “really valuable. It’s a place where people can invest a lot of themselves and find comfort, hope and a sense of security. This Easter I’d like to express my gratitude to the Christian community in the UK and beyond, for their generosity and compassion.”

The Easter story, he said, was “one of hope and renewal, of overcoming adversity and light prevailing over darkness. As families and friends gather to celebrate the holiday we turn our thoughts towards new beginnings, our future and how things can change for the better.”

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