Page 3 Profile: Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury


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The Independent Online

Any message from the Archbishop this Easter?

Mr Justin Welby made his debut on Radio 4's Thought for the Day yesterday to mark Good Friday. For those too fond of a lie-in to be aware of its existence, it's a short religious slot on the Today programme, broadcast at around 7.45am. But don't worry if you are not a regular listener – the new head of the Church of England doesn't appear too big a fan of it either.

And why not?

He can't fit it into his daily schedule. Presenters Evan Davis and Sarah Montague challenged the Archbishop over his apparent disregard for the programme, but he insisted that he wasn't missing it deliberately and he had "nothing against" it. "I think you are wonderful, you are absolutely marvellous right across the Today programme, without exception," he said. "But it just doesn't fit in with what I am doing in the morning. Never would be an exaggeration, I do very occasionally, but it is very rare."

That aside, what did he say?

He compared the crucifixion to the bail-out in Cyprus, offering a message of hope to those affected by these tough economic times at home and abroad. In both cases, a "tough but necessary" job was done. He said he saw two newspaper stories about Cyprus. "One told of a deal done, an agreement reached, and satisfaction over the job completed," while the other revealed "people in despair, a whole country heading into penury". Similarly, the Bible recounts how Jesus' death was a "neatly" executed job by the ruling class, but one that left Christ's disciples and the women who supported him "traumatised, fearful, despairing" and with "every dream of the future gone". He concluded that the death of Jesus represented both a "challenge and a promise of hope", and urged believers to "show that same self-giving love for the sake of others."

Wise words, but do we really need a 'Thought for the Day'?

Secular groups aren't too happy with the fact that religious figures get a two-and-a-half minute slot to promote their faith every morning on one of BBC Radio's most popular programmes. In 2002, the British Humanist Association argued accused the Corporation of discrimination against the non- religious, and as a result Professor Richard Dawkins became the first atheist to deliver the message. He said the idea God would protect us was an "infantile regression".