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Archbishop on BBC Radio 2: Aled Jones with Good Morning Sunday

Sunday 4th April 2010

The Archbishop and Aled Jones discuss the media reaction to comments about the Irish Church, as well as the Archbishop's plans for Easter, on BBC Radio 2's Good Morning Sunday programme.

Aled Jones: Happy Easter, let me start by talking about the fact that you've been in the news rather a lot over the last few days – did you expect to find yourself in the eye of the storm this Easter weekend?

Archbishop of Canterbury: No I can't say I did really because for one thing, it's rather odd discussing an interview that hasn't yet been broadcast and for another, I didn't honestly think I was saying anything that had not been said by others about the Irish Church, including leaders of the Irish Church. I wasn't intending to criticise or condemn, but to point out a really tragic situation, and a huge challenge that faces the Church in Ireland at the moment, which many of them are rising to with great courage.

AJ: Many people are interpreting your message of regret as an apology, was it that? Were you saying sorry?

ABC: I was saying sorry that I had made life more difficult for the Archbishop of Dublin and his colleagues who have indeed been trying to tackle this crisis with great imagination and great honesty, and I feel very sorry that anything I've said should be seen as undermining that – that was anything but my intention, especially at a time like this.

AJ: On another aspect lots of people would agree with what you were saying.

ABC: Well the tragic situation is that there is a huge challenge that the Church faces; this has been said by everybody, by the leadership of the Irish Church, it's been said by the Pope. It's a crisis that affects everybody and, as I've said in the full version of the interview (which has not yet been heard) we've all had to live with these crises, some of the challenges posed by abuse that hasn't been addressed in the past.

AJ: And the good thing is that now it's being addressed – this is a positive move forward.

ABC: Absolutely, that's right. People throughout the churches are realising that in the past we have not taken this seriously enough, there's a great deal of hurt to be dealt with there.

AJ: Does the situation reflect badly on Christians in general would you say?

ABC: We're talking about a tiny, tiny minority of clergy in the churches who have given way to the most appalling temptations and sins, and inevitably, because Christians are all seen through one lens by some people, it affects everyone. But I think what we have to say is, because we believe in the Resurrection, we believe there is always resource and hope in dealing with these failures, these sins.

AJ: I can hear the bells of Canterbury Cathedral ringing in the background – Easter is a celebration day, let's concentrate on that now shall we? Why is it important for Christians to follow the events leading up to the Passion of Jesus during Holy Week?

ABC: I think following the events during Holy Week we're walking with Jesus, we're accompanying him in his sufferings as St Paul says, in the hope that we can see the care and hope of the Resurrection so we take time over it, we don't just try to have one quick service where we say thank you very much for dying and rising again. We spend a week listening to the stories, singing the hymns, saying the prayers, following that journey to the cross and then Easter beyond it.

AJ: For many children waking up, it's a day for eating more chocolate than usual – does that matter?

ABC: I'm not sure it does really, you can eat chocolate to the glory of God just as much as anything else.

AJ: how did I know you were going to say that?

ABC: Because you know I'm a parent like you.

AJ: Exactly, it's getting the balance right I suppose, it's getting children to actually understand the greater message I suppose?

ABC: Surely yes, and one thing I very much enjoy at Canterbury every year is we have a procession of the children from the Cathedral Sunday school going in front of us as we go into the cathedral this morning for the big service.

AJ: So how will you be marking Easter today? It's a busy day for you I guess?

ABC: It's quite busy, yes. Last night I was already out doing the vigil service in one of our parishes in the Diocese of Canterbury where we light the first fire of Easter, we light the Easter candle from that, everybody from the church lights their candles from it and last night we also had a confirmation service which was a wonderful extra bit of joy. Then this morning at 11 o'clock we have the major service in the cathedral of Holy Communion where we usually have about a thousand people , and that's where I preach my Easter sermon. This afternoon we'll have evening prayer as well, and after that I'm meeting some people who are planning to be ordained in the Church of England and spending a bit of time with them. Tomorrow we have the big pilgrimage for young people in the Diocese of Canterbury. So yes, it's a busy time, a very varied time.

AJ: How much pressure is there on you for your Easter sermon?

ABC: Well it's not quite like preaching like I did last night in the Isle of Sheppey because I do have a sense that people are waiting to hear what's been said and the news will usually pick up a phrase or two from it. But the challenge is really to say something about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, reminding people of where we come from and what matters most.

AJ: It sounds to me, and I know you quite well as I've interviewed you many, many times, it sounds to me like you 're a little angered by the press and the media in general?

ABC: Well angered is a strong word, and I think the trouble is that at times things that are said are used for other people's agendas, to make a sensational story, and journalists have to live. But it does mean that you do feel under pressure sometimes when speaking in public because you sometimes feel that you are talking to everyone.

AJ: do you feel pressure to keep everyone happy?

ABC: It's impossible to keep everyone happy and that can distract you I suppose from the really important thing which is, as I say, talking about what we're here for, what we exist as a Church which is the Good News of Jesus Christ.

AJ: Do you think the date for Easter should be fixed?

ABC: Well I don't myself really, I quite like the variety of not being quite sure year by year when it's coming. It might be convenient for a secular society but it's a reminder actually that Easter has its origins in the old festivals of the Jewish people, the year the phases of the moon marks, Passover was marked by a particular phase of the moon.

AJ: What are your hopes for Christianity in this country in the coming year?

ABC: In the coming year? Well we've got a number of big events coming up, the Pope's visit of course, which I hope will be a really positive moment for the country - to hear a Christian message from a great Christian leader, that's something we're involved in as the Church of England, in a marginal but real way, and I hope that will be something. But more generally, I'm hugely encouraged by the fact that the new initiatives in planting new Christian congregations around the country continue to provide great opportunities for people to hear about the Christian message - the so-called Fresh Expressions initiative which was launched about five years ago that has now got hundreds and hundreds of new congregations started. And just recently we had a nationwide conference of people involved with these projects of taking the Church to where people are; about 500 turned up in Lincoln and since then we've had about twenty-five new local groups starting up, so I hope to see all of those flourish.

AJ: Well, as I say I'm very grateful to you Archbishop for joining us this morning. It's a very busy day for you I know and it's good that we've cleared quite a few things up.

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