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Archbishop of Canterbury praises 'heroism' of frontline workers

The Archbishop of Canterbury has praised frontline workers for their “heroism” during the coronavirus outbreak.

His message was delivered by video as churches remain closed over Easter for the first time in hundreds of years, due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Pope Francis delivered his Easter message behind closed doors

Image: Pope Francis also delivered his Easter message behind closed doors

Justin Welby led the first national digital Easter Sunday service from his kitchen at Lambeth Palace.

He called for “a resurrection of our common life” once the coronavirus outbreak is over.

“After so much suffering, so much heroism from key workers and the NHS, we cannot be content to go back to what was before as if all is normal,” he said in the sermon, recorded on his iPad.

“There needs to be a resurrection of our common life.”

The Archbishop normally presides before a congregation of 1,500 people at Canterbury Cathedral on Easter morning.

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He assured worshippers that everyone is in this together, saying: “So many people right across the country are anxious about employment, food, are isolated from loved ones and feel that the future looks dark.

“People right across the globe feel the same uncertainty, fear, despair and isolation. But you are not alone.”

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He added that “in the dark days of this Easter, we can feed on hope” – and “dream of what our country and our world will look like after the pandemic”.

Responding to a question about the closure of churches, Mr Welby said the decision had been taken “with much pain and much thought and much prayer”.

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But he said it was vital that people followed the government’s advice on social distancing.

“I’m unhappy with it – I would love to be at Canterbury Cathedral… it would be much better.

“But the reality is, we are here to set an example. It’s not about us.

“We have said this is how you care for your flock and… share in the suffering of the nation and set an example and care for others and look after them and stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives – it’s not complicated.”

St Peter's Square is usually packed on East Sunday

Image: St Peter’s Square in Vatican City is usually packed on Easter Sunday

In his Easter message, also recorded behind closed doors, the Pope called for solidarity in fighting the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout and urged the relaxation of international sanctions, and debt relief for poor countries.

He also warned the European Union that it risked collapse if it did not agree on how to help the recovery.

The Pope’s Easter “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message, delivered from an empty St Peter’s Basilica instead of to the usual crowd of tens of thousands in the square, was his most pressing and political since his election in 2013.

Easter service looked a bit different for Relevant Church in Clover, South Carolina, as the state's lockdown amid the global pandemic was underway.

Easter at the drive-in in United States

He said: “This is not a time for indifference, because the whole world is suffering and needs to be united in facing the pandemic.

“Indifference, self-centredness, division and forgetfulness are not words we want to hear at this time. We want to ban these words forever!

“May international sanctions be relaxed, since these make it difficult for countries on which they have been imposed to provide adequate support to their citizens.”

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