Bishop of Salisbury speaks out on nerve gas murder attempt

The Bishop of Salisbury has thanked those who have supported the city since the nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

The Bishop of Salisbury has thanked both those in the city and those who had come from outside to support it four ‘very strange’ weeks since the nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

In his Easter sermon, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam also said that the increased tension between Russia and Western countries was ‘not good news’ and that we should distinguish between the Russian state and Russian people, who mostly want to live peacefully.

The Bishop also thanked those from outside who had come to the city to support it in recent weeks, including those in the Cathedral congregation this morning who had come especially to worship with local people at a difficult time.

An excerpt from the sermon is below:

“On the whole people have responded so well. The emergency services were brilliant. The hospital has taken care of everyone. The policeman is now out. Yulia Skripol is said to be recovering. Her father is still critical.

“There has been some anxiety, puzzlement and anger but people in this community are resilient. Many military live here as do the people who work at Porton Down. But we are only beginning to get back to normal. The business recovery group has been part of that. Free parking in Salisbury! Who would ever have thought it? So was Good Friday’s act of witness which reclaimed the streets when several hundred people from Churches Together walked from the cathedral to the Guildhall remembering the cross of Christ on Good Friday, praying for the city and asking God to bless us.

“Indeed it has felt all week that those who have come from outside Salisbury to be with us in the churches and cathedral of this city have been doing something surprisingly powerful to help the city get back on its feet. If you have come today in solidarity with Salisbury, thank you.

“After an act of violation we need to rebuild relationships and confidence in one another and the people and place we love. 

“Over 20 countries have expelled Russians from their embassies and Russia has retaliated. This is not good news. To live with fear is almost unbearable and the anxiety of that enmity escalating makes people more fearful.

“A friend with a Russian/British family asked me to distinguish between the Russian state and the Russian people most of whom are like us and want to live peacefully.

“It might also help us to think about patriotism carefully. Loving our own country is not an end in itself. Just as to love everyone we have to love someone in particular, to love everywhere has to begin at home. Charity begins with home but does not stop at home.

“And I have been wondering what links we have with the Russian churches and how to make use of the extraordinary network by which the Church is local everywhere.”

The Bishop concluded with the famous poem of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is a Canon of Salisbury, ‘Goodness is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Light is stronger than darkness. Life is stronger than death. Victory is ours through him who loves us.’

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