Archbishop of Canterbury says church is not party political amid Rwanda plan spat

The Archbishop of Canterbury has used his Easter sermon to say the church is not party political after facing criticism over his high-profile condemnation of the government's controversial Rwanda deportation scheme.

Justin Welby told the congregation on Sunday that Anglicans are "all different" in their politics, as he urged "love-in-action" to help those caught up in conflict, including children in Gaza and Sudan, hostages held by Hamas and people in Ukraine.

The top cleric has come under fire for his scathing denunciation of Rishi Sunak's plan to tackle small boat crossings and send asylum seekers on a one-way flight to Kigali, arguing it was "morally unacceptable" and "leading the nation down a damaging path".

Mr Welby has previously been told at Westminster that neither "handwringing or bell ringing" will solve the problem and that he should "check his white privilege" over his opposition to the Rwanda policy.

In his Easter address, the archbishop told the faithful: "We must confront evil and pain.

"Whether it is the evil of people smugglers, or county lines in our schools, or the pain and suffering in a family riven with grief or rage or substance abuse.

"Jesus, the God-man, who experienced every pain and temptation, is calling us to love-in-action.

"It must be action driven by prayer, directed in wisdom.

"The church is not party political, for its members are all different in our politics.

"But we do not pick causes by opinion polls or human pressure, we show love-in-action and word because of who God is, revealed in Jesus.

"We act because of what God says, found in the bible and to be lived out by the church - in over 30,000 social projects - in 8,000 food banks."

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He added: "Therefore, let us seek action amongst the starving children of Gaza and Sudan - and the parents who try desperately to find food for them, action for the hostages held by Hamas, action for those in the trenches and cities and fears of Ukraine, action in at least 30 but probably closer to 50 other places of armed conflict, action for the 25-30% of children in this country in poverty.

"Because God is revealed in Jesus, action-in-love means we must live sacrificially and generously, for others not ourselves."

The government's Rwanda legislation, which is intended to prevent further legal challenges to the stalled asylum scheme after the Supreme Court ruled the plan was unlawful, remains stuck in parliamentary limbo after a series of further defeats in the Lords, with MPs not scheduled to debate it again until after Westminster returns from its Easter break.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis has presided over the Easter vigil service at the Vatican, delivering a 10-minute homily and performing baptisms, a day after suddenly skipping the Good Friday procession at the Colosseum as a health precaution.