The Archbishop of Canterbury believes a government should not interfere in church affairs. Archbishop George Carey, the leader of 75 million Anglicans who is a three-day visit to the region, was commenting to Ha'aretz on Israel's decision in July to exclude five candidates from elections for the Greek Orthodox patriarchate.
"It's not my job to interfere in the running of another church; no government should interfere either," Carey told Ha'aretz. At the time, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's advisor Ra'anan Levy, said "Israel is sovereign in Jerusalem and the reasons have to do with Israel's interests in Jerusalem."
Carey had a private meeting yesterday with PA Chairman Yasser Arafat in Gaza. He is scheduled to meet Sharon and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau tomorrow before returning to Britain.
"My message to the prime minister and the people of Israel," said Carey, "is that we respect Judaism very much and Israel has a right to exist, just as much as Palestine has a right to exist. We all long for peace, and that peace would only be brought about through negotiation. I've said a number of times that the Mitchell proposals are ones worth building upon, and let's get people back to discussions."
He said he supports the idea of stationing international observers in the region to help peace making if both sides agreed.
In a sermon to a large congregation at Jerusalem's St. George Cathedral yesterday evening, Carey expressed solidarity with local Christians, but also argued for better relations between all religious groups in the holy city. "We are mandated, as Christians to find different solutions that let different people live together in harmony. We are mandated to encourage political leaders to seek the path of dialogue. And we are mandated to challenge the often-assumed position that concessions and compromises are signs of political weakness."
"Might it not be possible," said Carey, "for Jewish believers, Muslim believers and Christian believers - in spite of deeply held differences - to walk humbly in mutual tolerance and deep respect toward a Jerusalem both full of peace and holy to all? It is important to remember we are all told to `love mercy.' And that is why on the one hand we can acknowledge the legitimate cause of a powerful partner, and yet urge caution in how that power is exercised."
Carey said the recent conflict has led to Christian pilgrimages being canceled. Quoting figures from the Christian Information Center in the Old City, he said 6,000 visits had been planned last November but only 10 percent had taken place. He said he would give a lead and head a pilgrimage of 150 people next year.
Carey told Ha'aretz conditions were "dire" in Gaza, where he met Christians. "The devastation in some of these places is awful. The poverty is very real, people are talking about crisis, and people are suffering."
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