The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to the Prince Andrew scandal by pointing out that “everybody makes mistakes”.
Justin Welby’s comments came during an interview with The Big Issue, in which he also expressed his fears for the UK’s future, drawing attention to rising homelessness and a decreasing tolerance to minority groups.
During an interview with the magazine he was asked about the Duke of York scandal, and whether he thought the royal family should have to meet a higher standard of behaviour than the rest of society.
The duke has faced scrutiny over his relationship with peadophile Jeffrey Epstein, who died in prison in August, and has been forced to retreat from public life following a disastrous Newsnight interview last month.
The prince denies claims that he slept with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s victims, on three separate occasions, twice while she was underage.
Discussing the royals, the archbishop said: “I think generally speaking they do serve in a way that is extraordinary in what is literally, for them, a life sentence.
“I think to ask that they be superhuman saints is not what we should do because nobody is like that.
“Everybody makes mistakes, everybody is human. I am not commenting on any member of the royal family except to say that I am astonished at what a gift they are to this country.”
Whilst sharing his Christmas message with The Big Issue on Monday, he said the situation for vulnerable people in the UK has worsened over the past nine years.
He pointed to growing numbers of rough sleepers, foodbank users, and incidents of “vitrolic language” being used, and said people’s tolerance of minority groups had fallen, with these groups experiencing a “much harder time”.
He said there are more rough sleepers, an increase in foodbank users and a rise in the use of “vitriolic language”, while people’s tolerance of minority groups has decreased, with these groups experiencing a “much harder time”.
“We have had an MP murdered. I am not saying we are in a crisis, I am just saying the direction of travel is not what we want,” he told The Big Issue.
The archbishop revealed he saw the Pope last week, and they talked about football, God and praying.
“I know nothing about Argentinian football, but I was teasing him about it. We talk about peace-building round the world,” he said.
“We make jokes and laugh. It’s just a conversation.”
Asked what his Christmas message for the country was, the archbishop said: “Don’t fear. Deal with fear. In the New Testament, among the letters from John, it says ‘perfect love casts out fear’. So love, don’t fear.
“Because the kind of love that God shows is a love that doesn’t expect return. That forgives failure. That loves people despite their ups and downs.
“That kind of love changes the world in a dramatic and wonderful way.”