The archbishop of Canterbury has said inequalities must be addressed or even eliminated once the current “pestilence” is over.
Speaking on Easter Sunday on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Justin Welby said there was a “huge, huge danger” of the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating inequality, but “that is our choice as a nation and as a world”.
He added: “The next wave coming is the economic one … We have a choice there as a nation and as a society and as a world. Do we take hold of our destiny and make sure the differences are mitigated, abolished where possible – or do we just let things happen, do we let the market rule, in which case there will be enormous suffering.”
Welby was speaking after broadcasting an Easter Sunday service from the kitchen of his home at Lambeth Palace. It was a “very strange” experience compared to the usual Easter service with 1,500 people at Canterbury cathedral, and required him and his wife Caroline to do “a lot of tidying up”, he told Marr.
The service, recorded on a iPad at a makeshift altar on the Welbys’ kitchen table, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and streamed on the Church of England’s Facebook page and website.
In his sermon, he said: “Who does not feel the shock of the last few weeks?… So many people right across the country are anxious about employment, anxious about food, isolated from loved ones and feel that the future looks dark.
“People right across the globe feel the same uncertainty, fear, despair and isolation. We are not alone.”
Speaking to Marr, Welby urged people to “not let fear dominate” and to look after one another during the crisis.
“There is hope and there is this possibility that wasn’t there in the past. Let’s honour those who have suffered who have served for us, who have cared for us, and above all those who have died by taking that opportunity.
“We will then be a better and a happier and a more wonderful country and a better world.”
The crisis had shown that “we depend on each other at the most fundamental level. Therefore we have to re-look at how we value each other. That includes how we value each other in financial terms, who bears the burdens of our society… If we don’t re-look at that, there is no justice in our society.”
The archbishop defended the decision to close churches, even to clergy and for private prayer, in the face of objections. The decision had been taken by all bishops with much pain, thought, discussion and prayer, he said.
He understood that many people were unhappy with the guidance. “I’m unhappy – I would love to be in Canterbury cathedral,” he said.
“But this is not about us, it’s about example and service. Church buildings are closed – and I love the church buildings – but the church is emphatically not closed, it’s probably busier than it’s ever been.”
Churches and cathedrals across the country shared “virtual” Easter Sunday celebrations as Christians faced the most important festival of their year under lockdown. Many have reported large numbers of people tuning into virtual acts of worship in recent weeks.
Pope Francis delivered a Catholic mass via livestream from an empty St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The square outside is normally packed with pilgrims and others celebrating the resurrection of Jesus with the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
In his address, the pope called for global solidarity in fighting the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout, urging the relaxation of international sanctions, debt relief for poor nations and ceasefires in all conflicts.
“This is not a time for indifference, because the whole world is suffering and needs to be united in facing the pandemic,” he said. “Indifference, self-centredness, division and forgetfulness are not words we want to hear at this time. We want to ban these words for ever!”
In particular, the EU was facing an “epochal challenge”, which would determine its future and the future of the world. “The crisis we’re facing should not make us forget the many other crises bringing suffering to so many people.”