Opposition Not Same as Persecution, Says Anglican Head

LONDON – The spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion used his Easter sermon Sunday to call upon British Christians to remember what the cross stands for in their faith and refrain from equating opposition to their faith to the physical persecution suffered by believers in other countries.

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams said recent disputes over the display of religious symbols could be put down to "bureaucratic silliness," adding that the mixture of contempt and fear toward the Christian faith in parts of British society was "unjustified."

He called upon Christians, however, to keep a sense of proportion whenever they experienced opposition to their faith.

"It is not the case that Christians are at risk of their lives or liberties in this country simply for being Christians. Whenever you hear overheated language about this remember those many, many places where persecution is real and Christians are being killed regularly and mercilessly or imprisoned and harassed for their resistance to injustice," the Church of England leader said.

Williams told Christians to remember the suffering of minority Christians in other countries like Nigeria, where hundreds have been murdered by Muslims in recent months, as well as Iraq, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.

"We need to keep a sense of perspective, and to redouble our prayers and concrete support," he said.

Elsewhere, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Vincent Nichols, used his Easter sermon to acknowledge the Church's guilt over decades of unreported child abuse by priests.

"Talk of sin is not always popular – unless we are talking about other people's sins," he said.

"In recent weeks the serious sins committed within the Catholic community have been much talked about," Nichols added. "For our part, we have been reflecting on them deeply, acknowledging our guilt and our need for forgiveness. This is the journey of Holy Week.

"Indeed, to appreciate the message of this great Christian feast we have to begin with our own sin and shame," he stated before concluding.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his message, did not refer to the sex abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church nor of the criticism he has faced in recent weeks for his handling of a child abuse case from the 1990s.

The pontiff did, however, say that humanity "needs … a spiritual and moral conversion."

"It needs ... to emerge from a profound crisis, one which requires deep change, beginning with consciences," he said in his "Urbi et Orbi" message.

"To the Christian communities who are experiencing trials and sufferings, especially in Iraq... Peace be with you!" he added.