Thursday, August 31st 2000 - 21:00 UTC

Archbishop's Falklands Sermon Revelation.

It has been revealed that the controversial sermon of reconciliation and penitence which gave rise to so much criticism of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the late Lord Runcie, after the Falklands Thanksgiving Service in 1982, was not written by him. The author was the present Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, who is being tipped as a strong contender to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury on the retirement of the present Archbishop, Dr George Carey, expected in two years' time.

In an interview in a British magazine, the Spectator, Dr Chartres has admitted he wrote the address delivered by Archbishop Runcie in July 1982 when he was the Archbishop's Chaplain. But Dr Chartres added, "It was Lord Runcie's when he delivered it. By the time he said it, he meant it. I never got blamed for the draft".

However, Archbishop Runcie did. The Prime Minister then, Margaret Thatcher, was reported to be furious as were other politicians who had expected his address to focus on triumphalism rather than reconciliation. Dr Runcie declared: "People on both sides of this conflict are mourning", and he asked the congregation of Saint Paul's Cathedral to pray for the dead on both sides, and for Argentine as well as British mothers who had lost sons.

The criticism heaped on Archbishop Runcie was a turning point in attitudes, giving rise to a newspaper tabloid campaign against him. But Archbishop Runcie, who died last month aged 78 from cancer, reacted with stoicism, as was emphasised by the many obituaries about his controversial ministry describing him as a man of integrity and courage. He won a Military Cross fighting the Germans in 1945 as a tank commander.

The present Archbishop, Dr Carey, also faced criticism, unfairly, for misreporting of his sermon on the tenth anniversary of the conflict in 1992 when Stanley's Christ Church Cathedral celebrated its centenary. Newspaper headlines inaccurately reported his remarks, out of context, as calling on Falkland Islanders to forgive and to seek reconciliation with Argentina. In fact, his carefully worded address condemned Argentina's "aggression and tyranny", and urged that the "bravery and heroism" of British servicemen and of Islanders should be cherished. He prayed for a new future of "peace, justice and goodwill" but also added: "As Christians we always look beyond our human limitations seeking reconciliation with those who harmed us".

Harold Briley, London

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