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Archbishop of Canterbury regrets refusal to meet Palestinian pastor

Justin Welby says he looks forward to meeting Munther Isaac next week after declining a meeting during the latter's UK visit
Welby (right) meets Pope Francis at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome in January 2024 (AFP)
Welby (right) meets Pope Francis at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome in January 2024 (AFP)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has said he regrets declining a meeting with the Palestinian Lutheran pastor, Munther Isaac, during the latter's recent tour of the UK.

Isaac had previously said that Welby's aides had informed him that the Anglican Church leader would not meet him because he had shared a platform with former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

"This sums up the Church of England. They danced around positions, and ended up saying nothing. They lack the courage to say things," Isaac said at the time.

On Thursday, Welby posted a message on X, saying that he regretted his earlier refusal and wanted to meet Isaac in the coming week.

"Recently I declined to meet with Rev Dr [Munther Isaac] during his UK visit," he wrote, continuing: "I apologise for and deeply regret this decision, and the hurt, anger, and confusion it caused. I was wrong not to meet with my brother in Christ from the Holy Land, especially at this time of profound suffering for our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters.

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"I look forward to speaking and praying with him next week."

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Isaac has been a prominent voice speaking out against Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip and has used his church sermons to highlight the suffering of Palestinians.

Earlier in February, he spoke at a mass rally in London hosted by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign that also featured Corbyn on the platform.

Corbyn has been the subject of antisemitism accusations since taking over the Labour Party in 2015 until his resignation following a general election defeat in 2019.

The former Labour leader has been a vocal critic of Israel and its abuses against the Palestinian people for most of his career.

He was expelled from the parliamentary Labour Party by its new pro-Israel leader, Keir Starmer, and prevented from re-contesting his seat as a Labour candidate.

Corbyn remains persona non grata within the British political establishment and continues to be the subject of critical tabloid headlines.

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