Archbishop of Canterbury visits Yad Vashem with Israeli President

After numerous visits to Israel, Welby meets Peres for very first time and is clearly moved at Yad Vashem, saying peace is a “challenge.”





Although he has been to Israel many times before, for Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, his meeting on Thursday with President Shimon Peres was a first.
Archbishop of Canterbury in Jerusalem, June 27, 2013.

Archbishop of Canterbury in Jerusalem, June 27, 2013. – Photo: REUTERS

In saying what a privilege it was to meet the President, “and a great privilege to always come to this land.”

Peres, who had come to the meeting at his residence directly from the Herzl Day Commemoration where he was the keynote speaker, also refrained from directly mentioning the name of the country and called it “the Holy Land”.

In welcoming the Archbishop, Peres said that religious leaders have a greater responsibility than ever before, because problems cannot be solved with power. They can only be solved with goodwill. Spiritual leaders must raise their voices to promote peace, love and understanding, he said.

Referring specifically to Israel, he said that the land was holy to all religions, and that it was the responsibility of the government to guarantee security, freedom of worship and respect for the holy sites. “We want to introduce a brotherly sentiment,” he said.

Welby said that he welcomed the President’s comments about the responsibility of religious leaders, and especially regarded it as a duty on their part to prevent religion from becoming an excuse for violence.

During his visits over the years he said, he had seen a deep hope for improving relations between peoples but he had also detected a deep pain.

The attainment of peace justice and security for all people in this land was a huge challenge “when there is so much history in such a small space,” he said. “This is a land for which we pray. Many of us love and seek the welfare of this land. You are living in perilous times and in perilous times we need courageous leaders.”

Earlier on Thursday, Welby was taken on a guided tour of Yad Vashem’s Holocaust History Museum and the Children’s Memorial.

At the Hall of Names, where Pages of Testimony of Jewish victims of the Holocaust are housed, the archbishop was presented with a Page of Testimony and archival information from the Yad Vashem Archives.

The documents detailed the story of a young boy who was most likely a distant Jewish relative of his who was murdered in the Holocaust.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, clearly moved, asked for a moment of solitude before continuing on to the Children’s Memorial.

After signing the Yad Vashem Guest Book, Archbishop Welby concluded his visit sharing some thoughts from his experience, saying: “This is not a place for words, it’s a place for tears and a place for learning and remembering, and I think the fewer words the better.”