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Covid-19 lockdown: Archbishop urges people 'think of others'

By Cemlyn Davies
BBC Wales political correspondent

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  • Coronavirus pandemic
image copyrightChurch in Wales
image captionThe Most Reverend John Davies expressed fear homelessness may be forgotten because of the ongoing Covid crisis

The public should "respond sensibly" to the latest lockdown restrictions and "think of others", the Archbishop of Wales has said.

The Most Reverend John Davies also expressed his hope Christmas "in some form" can be celebrated this year.

In a wide-ranging interview, he spoke of his fears the long-term issue of homelessness may be forgotten because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

He said he wanted to keep the issue "on the agenda" as the pandemic unfolds.

In his first sit-down interview since March, the archbishop told the BBC's Politics Wales programme: "It's very, very easy to knock people who are in government, at whatever level, when things are difficult.

"I think that everybody at every level is really trying to do their very best in what are immensely unexpected and difficult circumstances.

"All I would want is to appeal to governments, at whatever level - local, national, UK - always to act justly, and to act with people in the greatest need at the forefront of their minds, to understand just how stressful, debilitating, frightening it can be to be in the situation that we see so many people in."

He warned the current crisis was taking its toll on people's "physical well-being, their mental well-being and their self-respect".

"All these things can just be chipped away at, and people left feeling pretty hopeless, and I suppose one of the jobs of the Church is always to say, 'please give people hope'."

The archbishop said the Welsh Government's decision to introduce a new national lockdown "wasn't unexpected" but that it was nevertheless "disappointing".

"All I would hope is that people will respond sensibly to what the Welsh Government is doing - that they will understand the government's not doing this to make life difficult for people.

"It's doing it in response to what I'm sure they believe to be the best advice and for the common good, so pay attention, be careful, and think of other people."

And the archbishop said it was "a disappointment" churches have had to close once again due to the latest lockdown.

"We just look forward, hopefully, to this two-week period having an effect, demonstrating that it works, and then maybe, maybe, maybe we'll be able to have some hope that Christmas in some form can be celebrated," he added.

The interview took place at St John's family centre in Brecon, which is home to a local foodbank serving the town and wider area.

"The very fact that we see food banks across the United Kingdom indicates to me that there's something unjust somewhere in the way things are set up," the archbishop said, adding that the number of people accessing the service had increased during the pandemic.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionHomelessness must remain front of mind during the pandemic, the Archbishop of Wales said

The archbishop also chairs the homeless charity Housing Justice Cymru and he spoke of his worry that "a crisis such as we have at the present time sometimes can be in danger of making people forget, or quite accidentally leading them to forget, long-term problems that other people are facing.

"So I want to keep the whole issue of homelessness on the agenda - that it's not forgotten."

The archbishop said he had been struck by how money had been found during the pandemic to address economic issues, "so could money be found for things such as providing for the long-term homeless?"

Along with his fellow Anglican leaders across the UK, the archbishop intervened in a political row last week over the UK government's Internal Market Bill.

UK ministers have acknowledged the Bill breaks international law in a "specific and limited way" but say that's necessary to protect the integrity of the UK.

In a letter published in the Financial Times on Monday, the Church leaders warned the Bill sets a "disastrous precedent".

image copyrightReuters
image captionArchbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was one of a number of Anglican Church leaders who warned the government its new Brexit bill could set a "disastrous precedent"

Asked if it was the Church's place to intervene in such a way, the archbishop said: "Yes it is.

"As I've reminded people in the past, if you read the Old Testament prophets, if you pay careful attention to the teachings of Jesus, then you will find both the prophets, and Jesus - with regularity - calling to account those who are not only the religious leaders of their time, but also the political leaders.

"And so to express a concern about the direction of travel, I think, is perfectly legitimate for religious leaders.

"Those who say religion and politics don't mix are being too selective, I think, in the way they read their scripture.

"I think we have the right to be able to say, 'please think more carefully'."

  • You can see more on this story on Politics Wales on BBC One Wales at 10:00 GMT on Sunday 25 October, and on the BBC iPlayer.

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