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UK News

Welby says he lost 'immensely close friend' to Covid, urges politicians to 'confess' their mistakes over virus response

by Will Maule

Most Revd Justin Welby has said he is committed to praying for Britain's politicians as they make decisions about the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that it is inevitable that politicians will have "regrets" over some of the choices they made.

"There will be things they've got wrong, because they're human," he said, noting that "our political leaders, including the Prime Minister...they're human, they're deeply, deeply human".

As the UK's Covid death toll tops 100,000, Archbishop Justin insisted that now was a time "for solidarity and support". 

"There will be inquiries in the future, that is quite right, but today is for solidarity," he said. 

"They will have regrets. I'd say to all of them, take it to God in prayer, confess it, and we have to move on and get the next decision right and care for people better as a result."

He revealed that he had lost a good friend and colleague to the virus. "I had a very close friend in his 40s, a bishop who I'd worked very closely with...he died in north-east Congo without much treatment," he explained. "They didn't have [many] facilities to look after him." 

The leader of the Church of England said that he had been in contact with the bishop shortly before he passed away: "He WhatsApped me just an hour before his death...he was an immensely close friend, I owed him so much."

He added: "Grief lies to us, death lies to us and says there is no future...but we do rebuild our lives, a day at a time, in solidarity with one another."

Appearing on BBC's Radio 4 Today programme, he also urged Western nations to work towards ensuring that the world's poorest and most vulnerable receive the vaccine. 

"This virus will not be defeated anywhere until it's defeated everywhere and that means that, not least, it's in our own interests that all around the world the vaccine is given," he said. 

Welby praised the UK Government for signing up to the global vaccine-sharing fund, 'Covax'. "We do have to care, and we are one of the countries, one of the highest levels of infection and death rate in the world, and it is necessary to focus on those in need to stop it spreading," he said.

"At the heart of Jesus's teaching was 'love your neighbour as yourself' - it doesn't mean you let yourself die in order to love your neighbour, normally - that's sometimes called for.

"Jesus calls us to a generosity of heart and spirit and there will be a point when we have to start giving away." 

Speaking to the House of Lords earlier this week, the Archbishop warned countires against over-ordering the vaccine, singling out Canada for acquiring "more than five times what it needs for the population". 

On Radio 4, he said he was hopeful Canada "will look at how that can be distributed around the world" rather than hoarding the doses for themselves. 

"And similarly here, I've no doubt that's on the Government's mind," he said. 

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