Why Boris Johnson's Attack On The Archbishop Of Canterbury Doesn't Stack Up

PM reportedly told Tory MPs that Justin Welby was “less vociferous” in his condemnation of Russia than he was in his attack on the Rwanda asylum policy.
.Boris Johnson and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
.Boris Johnson and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
PA News

Boris Johnson has accused the Archbishop of Canterbury of being “less vociferous” in his condemnation of Russian president Vladimir Putin than he was in his attack on the policy of sending some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

It came after senior members of the Church of England, led by Justin Welby, joined a chorus of criticism of the government’s plan to send asylum seekers thousands of miles one-way from the UK to Rwanda.

The PA News agency reported sources close to the prime minister saying he told Tory MPs in a private meeting it was a “good policy” despite some “criticism on the BBC and from senior members of the clergy” who he said “had been less vociferous in their condemnation on Easter Sunday of Putin than they were on our policy of illegal immigrants”.

Johnson is also said to have accused the senior clergyman of having “misconstrued” the Rwanda plan. The briefing squares with reporting from journalists in parliament.

But Welby and the Archbishop of York condemned the Russian invasion as “an act of great evil” when war broke out in February.

The Church of England leaders said in a joint statement: “The horrific and unprovoked attack on Ukraine is an act of great evil.

“Placing our trust in Jesus Christ, the author of peace, we pray for an urgent ceasefire and a withdrawal of Russian forces.

“We call for a public decision to choose the way of peace and an international conference to secure long-term agreements for stability and lasting peace.”

The criticism from Johnson came after he was forced to repeatedly apologise over the fine he received from police for breaching coronavirus laws.

Welby had raised “serious ethical questions” about the Rwanda policy in his Easter Sunday address and said it cannot “stand the judgment of God”.

In the sermon, the archbishop said “sub-contracting out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well, like Rwanda, is the opposite of the nature of God who himself took responsibility for our failures”.

On Monday, the Bishop of Chelmsford described the policy as “cruel and inhumane”.

Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani wrote an open letter to the home secretary after Priti Patel challenged critics to provide alternatives. Francis-Dehqani said the suggestion “misunderstands” the role the Church of England plays in public discourse.

Dr Rowan Williams, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, backed his successor in condemning the move on Monday, saying it is “not in accord with what I understand about God”.

He told Times Radio: “Is the policy sinful? I think, in a word, yes. I think that without commenting on the motivation or moral standing of any individual involved, the policy itself seems to me to be not in accord with what I understand about God.”


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