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Palm Sunday from Canterbury: Archbishop Justin on Songs of Praise

Monday 25th March 2013

At the start of the most sacred seven days in the Christian calendar, Archbishop Justin spoke to the BBC’s Songs of Praise about what Holy Week means to him.

Talking about the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ trial, the Archbishop said Pilate “strikes me very forcefully. Washing his hands - it’s just another criminal. He doesn’t recognise something we’re talking about on Palm Sunday. He doesn’t recognise; he just does."

Filmed in Canterbury Cathedral, the programme was broadcast yesterday on Palm Sunday, which remembers Christ's triumphant arrival in Jerusalem amid cheering crowds - many of whom would days later be calling for his execution.

“There’s a deep fear within [Pilate]," said the Archbishop, "and somewhere the system overcomes the fear and the system drives him.” 

Christians clergy often use the Palm Sunday story to help people think about the strength of their own commitment to their faith. They may ask believers to think about times when they have been unfaithful to Christ, or been hypocritical in proclaiming their support.

Reflecting on the trial in a modern context, he said: “I find the driving power in big institutions like churches frightening. And that challenges me very profoundly."

He added that “we get into cultures which make it almost superhuman” for individuals to have the courage to challenge them alone.

Turning to prayer 

During the programme, Archbishop Justin also spoke movingly about how he and his wife turned to prayer when their baby daughter Johanna died in a car crash in 1983.

He said: “That was prayer at its rawest because it’s just prayer of, Oh God help. Oh God, where are you? What’s going on? Are you going to do something or aren’t you?

He added: “The presence of Jesus in that room was simply overwhelming. And there was a sense of handing her over. And that was prayer, at its most profound and getting exactly the answer we didn’t want.”

Watch the full episode on iPlayer here (for the next six days) or watch an extract here.


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