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Archbishop of Canterbury urges Commonwealth to put words into action

Posted on: April 16, 2018 2:15 PM
Justin Welby preaches in advance of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
Photo Credit: Andrew Dunsmore / Picture Partnership / Westminster Abbey

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has said that the Commonwealth of Nations will last and be a blessing to the world – if it continues to put its word into action. His comments came in a sermon during a special evensong service at Westminster Abbey yesterday (Sunday) in advance of this week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London and Windsor. He told the congregation, which included government leaders, diplomats, officials, and an ecumenical group of church leaders, the Bible, “in the clearest terms”, sets out the way people are to behave: “It is to raise up the poor, to bring freedom to the captives, to lighten the load of the suffering,” he said.

““The Commonwealth will last, and will find its identity more and more deeply even than today. Its future will be a blessing to the world – rich and poor, secure and threatened – if it is a body that loves the poor, brings home the refugee, cares for the stranger, eliminates unjust gain and corruption, guards the environment, and does so amidst diversity held together by a common humanity, and a vision of hope.

“Such a vision answers the needs of our time. Liberates the oppressed. It guards freedom of conscience and belief, and sets the names of its leaders before the history of the world.

“Mere talking will not do it, as Ruth knew, and as Abraham told the rich man. This is a time for action in love, for hope founded in faith, for humility of service that imitates the risen Christ we worship here today. Amen.”

His words were welcomed by the Commonwealth’s Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland, who described it as “a very powerful sermon.” Speaking at a press conference at the start of a week of activities around the biennial CHOGM meeting, she said: “It was based on Lazarus, who was the poor man at the gate who was ignored by the rich man. And in the long term, Lazarus is the one who went to heaven and the rich man went somewhere else.

“What we are talking about is how we share what is really important to deliver opportunity to all of our people. And that is what the Commonwealth is absolutely determined to do.”

Today, four forums on the themes of youth, women, business and citizens began in venues around Westminster, London; bringing together a large number of people throughout the Commonwealth. On Wednesday, foreign ministers from the 53-member countries will meet ahead of the formal CHOGM meeting at Buckingham Palace on Thursday. On Friday the leaders will gather at Windsor Castle for a private retreat.