Justin Welby made comment about the duke as he asked public to be more ‘open and forgiving’
The archbishop of Canterbury has suggested the Duke of York is “seeking to make amends” as he encouraged society to be more “open and forgiving” in general.
Prince Andrew stepped down from public life after the furore over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender, and earlier this year he paid millions to a woman he claimed never to have met to settle a civil sexual assault case.
He was cast out of the working monarchy and no longer uses his HRH style after Virginia Giuffre, who was trafficked by Epstein, accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was 17. The duke denied the allegations.
Justin Welby, in an interview with ITV News on Tuesday, called on people “to step back a bit” and said the Queen’s second son was seeking to make amends, adding: “I think that’s a very good thing.”
He stressed that he could not tell people how to respond, saying the “issues of the past in the area of abuse are so intensely personal and private for so many” and “it’s not surprising there’s very deep feelings indeed”.
Asked how the public should respond to Andrew after his appearance at the Duke of Edinburgh’s memorial service in March, Welby, 66, said: “At a big public occasion the Queen is fully entitled to have one of her children supporting her. Secondly, forgiveness really does matter. I think we have become a very, very unforgiving society. There’s a difference between consequences and forgiveness.
“I think for all of us, one of the ways that we celebrate when we come together is in learning to be a more open and forgiving society.”
A spokesperson for the archbishop of Canterbury later clarified that he was not referring specifically to the Duke of York when he said we must become a more forgiving society and “was making a broader point about the kind of society that he hopes the Platinum Jubilee inspires us to be”.
A statement from Welby said: “In tonight’s interview with ITV News I was asked a question about forgiveness, and I said that there is a difference between consequences and forgiveness. Both are essential elements of the Christian understanding of justice, mercy and reconciliation.
“I also made the broader point that I hope we can become a more forgiving society. These are complex issues that are difficult to address in a short media interview and I hope they do not distract from this week’s joyful celebration of her majesty the Queen’s platinum jubilee.”
The archbishop is no longer delivering the sermon at the platinum jubilee service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday after he tested positive for Covid
Stephen Cottrell, the archbishop of York, will take his place.