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Last Updated: Monday, 23 January 2006, 19:41 GMT
Bishop in Easter lecture cruise
The Right Reverend Richard Chartres
The trip is part of a two-month educational sabbatical
The Bishop of London will spend Easter on a cruise ship as opposed to leading the Church of England's celebrations at St Paul's Cathedral.

The Right Reverend Richard Chartres will give four lectures during a two-week trip on board the Minerva II along the north African coast.

The Diocese of London says it is part of a well-earned two-month sabbatical during which he will "study hard".

Critics say it is inappropriate at a time when congregations are shrinking.

The trip with the Swan Hellenic cruise company would normally cost a couple 7,000 but the Bishop and his wife will travel for free in return for his lectures.

The Minerva II cruise ship
The trip is free in return for the Bishop's lectures

Christopher Morgan, of The Sunday Times, said: "Nobody begrudges the Bishop a break but congregations are at their lowest level since the reformation.

"Numbers are very small in London churches, therefore parish priests, vicars, want encouragement from their bishop, not discouragement."

BBC London's Paraic O'Brien said it was understood the Bishop would pre-record his Good Friday address for BBC Radio 4 at St Ethelburga's Centre in the City.

Simon Keyes, of St Ethelburga's Centre, said: "The Bishop's Ministry has been 33 years and he's never taken a sabbatical during that time and I think it's overdue really.

"He's going to be spending two months hard studying working on a book and at the end of it he's taking his wife not on a holiday but a paid lecture tour.

"He's going to be giving four heavy-duty lectures during that time, so this is not just a holiday."



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