Carey urges: 'Open hearts to Resurrection'

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The Resurrection's message of eternal hope is not just for the committed churchgoer but for all people, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey said yesterday.

"If we open our hearts to the Resurrection message, we too shall find ourselves surprised by joy," he said, referring to CS Lewis's book in which the writer told how he suddenly became convinced of the reality of God and the Resurrection of Christ.

Dr Carey said in his address in Canterbury Cathedral that he had recently studied the Resurrection stories again.

He said profoundly sceptical modern people wondered how they could base their beliefs about the very purpose of life on something so hopelessly improbable.

But reasons to believe the story included:

The Resurrection was totally unexpected, so the disciples could not have convinced themselves it had happened.

The story shows the male disciples in a poor light. No man had the courage to stand alongside their leader. "The women have too high a profile in a story in which men are supposed to have the central place. This underlines the credibility of the narrative as a whole."

These dejected and humiliated disciples were suddenly transformed - because of the "staggering impact" of the Resurrection.

Jesus's Jewish followers took the extraordinary step of changing their holy day from Saturday to Sunday and calling it the Lord's Day. "Only something quite overwhelming could have led them to do so. We know what it was, for it has been spelled out in our Creeds from early Christian times: 'On the third day, he rose again from the dead'."

Dr Carey added that the Resurrection was the bedrock on which Christianity rests.

"It is the Church's message of eternal hope to the world. What a wonderful gift it is from God to all people. Life for all who come to God. Come, all are welcome here."

Dr Carey mentioned a survey released today which showed that 50% of people believe in the Resurrection, 34% do not and 16% are undecided.

"Those who thought our society was overrun by secularism and scepticism will be in for a surprise. It shows the deep deposits of belief beneath the surface."

In the Vatican City, the P called for support for the "artisans" of peace in Bosnia, northern Ireland and the Holy Land.

Two weeks before Italian parliamentary elections, the Pope began reading a list of Easter wishes in 56 languages with an appeal to predominantly Catholic Italy to keep in mind its Christian roots. But he singled out no party in the race between a conservative alliance that includes former neo-fascists and a center-left coalition led by ex-Communists.

Going up after the Mass to the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica overlooking the square, John Paul prayed that the risen Christ may "enlighten and guide all those who are building peace, every day in every corner of the globe at the coast of great sacrifices."

The pope will likely take up the plight of Algerian civilians caught up in that country's bloody battle pitting the military-backed government and fundamentalist Muslim guerrillas when he visits neighboring Tunisia on a one-day visit April 14.