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Archbishop Begins Visit to Province of Melanesia

Monday 19th July 2004

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has begun an eight-day visit to the Church of the Province of Melanesia. On arrival at Honiara airport Dr Williams was greeted by wellwishers in a traditional warrior ceremony.

Later, around 2000 people gathered for a service of Holy Communion at St Barnabas Cathedral in Honiara, with 1500 more worshippers gathered outside, despite heavy rain.

Responding to words of welcome from the Most Revd Sir Ellison Leslie Pogo, Archbishop of Melanesia, Dr Williams said that, coming originally from the small Anglican province of Wales, he understood how small churches sometimes felt. "But as I look around me I am certain that there is really no such thing as a small church; every church, every part of the Anglican Communion, every part of the body of Christ is a great church because it has a great God and a great hope. I come here therefore, in the hope of learning great things from you."

In his sermon Dr Williams added that Melanesia served as a reminder that the Church recognised no barriers of distance, just fellowship and friendship. "The Gospel of Christ knows no far away places, it makes every place on earth a place of neighbourhood; every place is the centre because Christ is the centre."

Dr Williams also honoured the sacrifice of Christians in Melanesia in the service of the Gospel. On Thursday he will lead prayers at the graves of seven members of an Anglican religious community, the Melanesian Brotherhood, who were murdered last year during a period of intense inter-communal violence.

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