Welby tells Belfast audience: ‘We must go to the cross for reconciliation’

The Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby speaks at the Elmwood Hall at Queen's University Belfast, on Monday night to deliver the Church of Ireland theological lecture. By David Cavan
The Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby speaks at the Elmwood Hall at Queen's University Belfast, on Monday night to deliver the Church of Ireland theological lecture. By David Cavan

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, spoke about reconciliation at Queen’s University in Belfast tonight.

He was delivering the annual Church of Ireland Theological Lecture at the Elmwood Hall, where he was introduced by the Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s, Professor Patrick Johnston.

The archbishop during his lecture

The archbishop during his lecture

Rev Welby said he was not going to talk about Northern Ireland because “you are quite rightly telling the world about what you’ve learned” and it would be arrogant for him to do so.

Instead, he said, he wanted to reflect on the nature of religiously justified violence.

“We are in a struggle with a terrorist force of extreme evil,” he said of the Islamic group Daesh.

Archbishop Welby said that people whose jobs required them to look at videos made by the extremist group had been left scarred by witnessing calculated cruelty that was “beyond description”.

The Most Revd Justin Welby. By David Cavan

The Most Revd Justin Welby. By David Cavan

He said that we must aspire towards a world in which religiously justified violence was eliminated.

The archbishop talked about understanding communities that had experienced the combination of being a minority and being humiliated.

“Humiliation and disrespect are the most corrosive things we can experience,” he said.

Reflecting on what can be done for people who have experienced humiliation, he said that Christians could start with “relationships of love”.

Asked by a member of the audience after his lecture if there were situations in which reconciliation is impossible, he responded yes, because of human “falleness”.

Among other questions put to the archbishop, one woman asked: “How far can we go with reconciliation given that as Christians we believe that Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation and – one of our tasks – we are called to evangelise? So how far can we go with people we believe are wrong?”

Rev Welby replied: “Well Jesus went to the cross, there’s no need to go any further than that.” (audience laughter)

He added: “And I would say that is where we go. We give everything. We give our lives.

“There is no choice. In sharing Christ, we offer reconciliation. In offering reconciliation, we end up sharing Christ.

“The two go together.”