Archbishop of Canterbury 'prays for those let down by church'

Most Rev Justin Welby
Image caption Thousands lined the streets of Chichester to greet the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said he is praying for those "really let down" by the church and its "failure in what we should have done".

A report found a "profoundly negative culture" within the Diocese of Chichester which led to two decades of child protection failures.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby is visiting the West Sussex city as part of his "journey of prayer".

The archbishop will be enthroned in Canterbury Cathedral on Thursday.

Archbishop Welby was represented by Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu at the inauguration of Pope Francis in Rome earlier.

He said it was not a difficult decision to visit Chichester rather than going to the Vatican.

The archbishop said: "This is a central part of my own introduction and inauguration of what I will be doing."

He said he wanted to share times of prayer together with people around the Province of Canterbury.

'Forgive if they can'

In February Robert Coles, a retired priest from Eastbourne, was jailed for eight years for abusing three boys between 1978 and 1984.

In 2012 three former Church of England priests in the diocese were charged with sexual offences against children.

Speaking to the BBC during his visit to Chichester, Archbishop Welby said: "Many [people] have shown extraordinary courage and strength in the face of what the Church has said quite openly was a really severe let down and failure in what we should have done.

"I pray for them to be able to forgive if they can. I don't insist or demand that they do, in fact quite the reverse."

"I pray for their wellbeing in the face of what they've survived."

'Journey in prayer'

The archbishop started his pilgrimage of five cities and six cathedrals in the Province of Canterbury last Thursday in Norwich.

During his pilgrimage he has also visited Coventry, London and Truro.

A Lambeth Palace spokesman said the pilgrimage highlighted his spiritual role and the importance of prayer in Christian life.

More than 3,000 people gathered in the centre of Chichester to greet Archbishop Welby, more than on his visits to the other cities in the tour, church officials said.

He started his visit by greeting the crowd at the Market Cross. with traffic halted in the area.

"I promised to come and it's really important to be here as this is the run-up to my own installation on Thursday," he said.

"It's just a treat to be here."

'I'm not nervous'

The new archbishop's enthronement service will be held in Canterbury Cathedral on Thursday, with 2,000 people invited to attend.

Among the guests will be Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the prime minister, and archbishops and bishops from around the world.

Representatives of other faiths will also attend.

Archbishop Welby said: "I'm not nervous. I'm very conscious it's going to be a very big day but it's exciting."

The service begins at 15:00 when Archbishop Welby knocks at the cathedral's west door.

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