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‘We are called to be peace-makers’, says Archbishop

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poppyWAR may sometimes be necessary but it is a sign of human failure, the Archbishop of Wales said at a candlelit vigil service to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War.

Dr Barry Morgan told the congregation at Llandaff Cathedral that we were called to be peace-makers and no conflict could be a good act.

The Archbishop was speaking at a commemorative service held jointly by the Welsh Government and Cardiff  Council in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.  He said the service was about remembering sacrifice, not celebrating victory, and he urged people to strive for peace in their own relationships, the nation and the world.

Dr Morgan said, “War may sometimes be necessary but the Christian Church has never claimed that war and violence are good acts.  To be involved in war is always to lapse from the God-given ideal of peace and reconciliation.

“If there is no other way except through war to establish justice, then it may be the right or necessary thing to do, as the lesser of two evils but such a choice necessarily involves one in sin.  It is never a good act.  It is only by a convoluted and tortuous process of reasoning that I can ever claim to be demonstrating God’s love towards my unjust neighbour by taking a gun and shooting him.

“That is why this service has a penitential section where we acknowledge our failures and shortcomings before God, since involvement in any war, for whatever reason, is a sign of human failure and in any conflict there can be no completely innocent party, even though one side may be more guilty than the other.”

While giving thanks for those who sacrificed their lives standing against oppression and injustice,  we need to resolve to ensure war doesn’t happen again, the Archbishop said.

“Wars do not solve the deepest problems of human life.  Not even the First World War resolved the issues that led to it for some of these conflicts still smoulder on in the Balkans and elsewhere.  At best, they give us breathing spaces in which to build and work for a world in which war will seem an obscene irrelevance.  That is why abstaining from conflict is never enough because more is needed.  We are called to be peacemakers, for as Jesus said “peacemakers shall be called the sons and daughters of God.”

He added, “Our prayer tonight then might be that conscious of our past, and all that it entailed, we seek to live compassionately and caringly for the whole of humanity by striving for the things that make for peace in our own relationships, our own nation and indeed our world.”

During the service, a message of peace was read by two members of Urdd Gobaith Cymru’s Youth Forum. Wreaths were laid by the Duke of Goucester, the First Minister of Wales, the Lord Mayor of Cardiff and Wyn Calvin, a president of the Cardiff Central branch of the Royal British Legion. Saleem Kidwai, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Wales, laid an olive branch on behalf of the Interfaith Council for Wales.

At the end of the service, lights in the Cathedral were dimmed and a candle was lit by the Revd Albrecht Kostlin-Buurma of the German Lutheran Churches and people kept a period of silence.

Following a blessing by the Archbishop, the Last Post was sounded and the Cathedral bells tolled to mark the centenary of the outbreak of war.

 

Sermon – Commemoration of

World War I

bishop“The trouble with services about the two World Wars” wrote one veteran of World War II recently, “is that the ceremonies have been hijacked by politicians, the Royal Family, and the church – and they are not about any of them”.

Well, that seems to exclude a fair number of us here tonight but without becoming too defensive, what precisely are we doing when we hold a service such as this?

Well, it is certainly not about giving significance to any of the categories just mentioned nor is it about glorifying war.  As the Lambeth Conference of 1930 said “War as a method of settling international disputes, is incompatible with the teaching and example of Jesus”.

War may sometimes be necessary but the Christian Church has never claimed that war and violence are good acts.  To be involved in war is always to lapse from the God-given ideal of peace and reconciliation.  And it is interesting that people who have served in our armed forces usually both refuse to talk about the horrors of war and regard it as the option of a last resort.

If there is no other way except through war to establish justice, then it may be the right or necessary thing to do, as the lesser of two evils but such a choice necessarily involves one in sin.  It is never a good act.  It is only by a convoluted and tortuous process of reasoning that I can ever claim to be demonstrating God’s love towards my unjust neighbour by taking a gun and shooting him.

That is why this service has a penitential section where we acknowledge our failures and shortcomings before God (just look at the last hymn we have sung), since involvement in any war, for whatever reason, is a sign of human failure and in any conflict there can be no completely innocent party, even though one side may be more guilty than the other.

Memorials of the fallen in the First World War indicate the way in which our predecessors made sense of it all.  They saw the deaths of those who fought as a laying down of lives for the sake of others, as the First Minister points out in his foreword to this service.  Human sacrifice, not triumphalism about being victorious is the note they struck.  The  Annual Service of Remembrance is held at a cenotaph not an Arc de Triomphe.

That way of seeing things, helps people deal with the pain of loss.  Death seen as sacrifice has remained the language through which those whose loved ones in today’s conflicts also find solace.  And so we give thanks for men and women who gave up their lives to safeguard values such as justice, freedom and liberty and for men and women from every race and nation who have stood against oppression and injustice.

But, alongside penitence, there is repentance.  The word “repentance” means to have a change of heart.  It involves a resolve to ensure that such a thing never happens again.  Japan is an example of this.  Since the last war, as if to make amends for its atrocities, Japan has become one of the most peace loving of all nations.  It has committed itself to peace and non-military economic growth.

Wars however do not solve the deepest problems of human life.  Not even the First World War resolved the issues that led to it for some of these conflicts still smoulder on in the Balkans and elsewhere.  At best, they give us breathing spaces in which to build and work for a world in which war will seem an obscene irrelevance.  That is why abstaining from conflict is never enough because more is needed.  We are called to be peacemakers, for as Jesus said “peacemakers shall be called the sons and daughters of God”.

R. H. Tawney was a major figure in the development of British political thought,  a Christian socialist who had also fought in World War One and found himself alone in No Man’s Land for nearly two days, after being wounded by the fragments of a shell.

He wrote “why is it that marshalled against an enemy, is given to a nation a common outlook, a spiritual unity, a power of co-operation and a comradeship in service which eludes it in peace time.  How can people lay down their life for one another in war but not in peace?”

The idea of a fellowship limited to the business of killing and absent from the business of living haunted him.

“Why are we”, says Tawney “so willing to pay for our armed services but reluctant to pay for social, educational and health services?  Wasted lives in war ought to lead to a prevention of wasted lives in peace”.

Our hope is that by reflecting on all these things in an act of worship, God may be able to work on us and change us for the better.  As one theologian puts it “We come into the presence of God with our human emotions, with pride and courage and grief at loss and waste.  As we pour out our prayer, our mourning, our pride, our shame, our convictions, God is able to work upon us.  He is able to deepen and enlarge our compassion and to purify our thanksgiving.  People who come mourning their own losses, then find not just consolation but a spirit which enlarges their own compassion for others”.

Our prayer tonight then might be that conscious of our past, and all that it entailed, we seek to live compassionately and caringly for the whole of humanity by striving for the things that make for peace in our own relationships, our own nation and indeed our world.

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea

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A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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Cyclist killed on A40 was serving police officer, force confirms

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A CYCLIST who died after a crash with a van on the A40 in Carmarthenshire was a serving police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, the force has confirmed in a statement to Herald.Wales.

The driver of the van involved in the crash, which happened on Thursday (Feb 25) has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, it was confirmed on Friday (Feb 26).

Police are investigating the fatal collision, which caused the road to be closed for 12 hours, and are asking for any witnesses to come forward by calling 101.

37-year-old Lynwen Thomas, who is a former student at Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Croes-y-Ceiliog, Carmarthen, was a sergeant and a very well-respected member of Dyfed-Powys Police.

A spokesperson for the police said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues, who have all been offered specialist support. We ask that family members are given the privacy they need at this difficult time.”

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