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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 March, 2003, 13:30 GMT
Archbishop backs troops in Gulf
The Archbishop of Canterbury
The archbishop has previously condemned attacking Iraq
The head of the Church of England has praised the men and women serving in the Gulf for their courage and dedication.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has written to military chaplains serving in the Gulf giving his support.

Prayers for troops have been said at churches and cathedrals around the UK on the first Sunday of the war.

We have got to find some way of living as one world or we risk there being no world at all
Richard Chartres, Bishop of London

At Salisbury Cathedral an area was set aside for prayers and the signing of a book, while at Bradford Cathedral there will be a service of "prayers for peace" at 1500 GMT.

Church services at Devon and Cornwall military bases, including HMS Drake in Plymouth and RNAS Culdrose, take on extra significance as they mourn the loss of troops who have died in the Gulf over the last two days.

The Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres told BBC One's Breakfast With Frost it was now time to pray for a "just and lasting peace".

The shock of this will reverberate through all of that community, and indeed through the local community in the south west of Cornwall
Captain Mike Knowles, RNAS Culdrose

He said: "The situation is that the bombs are falling and the bullets are flying. Clearly our responsibility now is to underline the fact of the interconnectedness of the region and of the world.

"We have got to find some way of living as one world or we risk there being no world at all."

'Dangerous places'

In his letter, Dr Williams, who has previously spoken out against military intervention in Iraq, said the chaplains and those serving with them would be in his thoughts and prayers.

You stand in a long and honourable tradition of Christians bearing witness to the love of Christ in hard and dangerous places
Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

He paid tribute to their difficult role, saying: "You stand in a long and honourable tradition of Christians bearing witness to the love of Christ in hard and dangerous places".

"Those who are deployed with their units will, I am certain, acquit themselves with courage and dedication.

"Few join the armed forces without having thought deeply about the personal cost of service or of the possibility of being put in harm's way."

The Archbishop met recently with the senior chaplains from the Navy, Army and RAF and the Bishop to the Forces, the Right Reverend David Conner.

'Shift of emphasis'

He was briefed about the work of chaplains in the Gulf.

BBC Religious Affairs Correspondent Robert Pigott said: "The Church of England has been conspicuous for its opposition to the war in Iraq.

"The publication of Dr Williams' letter is part of a decisive shift of emphasis over the past few days.

"It seems intended to forestall the impression that the Church may now lack its traditional support for the forces themselves."

He said Dr Williams referred only briefly to the hard choices that had been made between different kinds of risk and cost.

However, other senior bishops, while voicing solidarity with servicemen and women, have repeated their belief that the war is not morally justified, said Mr Pigott.

One bishop had referred to military personnel as being among the innocent victims of the war, he said.




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