Johnson accused of ‘disgraceful’ attack on Welby over Rwanda policy criticism

Boris Johnson accused the Archbishop of Canterbury of being ‘less vociferous’ in criticising Vladimir Putin than the Government’s asylum policy.

20 April 2022

Boris Johnson’s attack on the Archbishop of Canterbury over his criticism of the Rwanda asylum policy is a “disgraceful slur”, a senior Church of England official has said.

The Prime Minister accused Justin Welby of having “misconstrued” the policy of sending some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson (Matt Dunham/PA)

Sources close to the Prime Minister said he accused the senior clergyman of being “less vociferous” in his condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin than he was in his attack on the policy.

The criticism from Mr Johnson came in a private address to Tory MPs in Parliament after he was forced to repeatedly apologise over the fine he received from police for breaching coronavirus laws.

The Church of England’s head of news John Bingham said if the reports of Mr Johnson’s behind-closed-doors comment were true it was a “disgraceful slur”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, had publicly condemned Mr Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as an “act of great evil”.

But Mr Johnson appeared angry at Mr Welby’s criticism of the plan to send some asylum seekers who arrive in the UK on a one-way trip to Rwanda.

The archbishop raised “serious ethical questions” about the policy in his Easter Sunday address and said it cannot “stand the judgment of God”.

In the sermon, the archbishop said “subcontracting out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well, like Rwanda, is the opposite of the nature of God who himself took responsibility for our failures”.

Sources said Mr Johnson accused “senior members of the clergy” of having “misconstrued the policy”.

The Prime Minister was said to have then added that the clergymen were “less vociferous” in their condemnation on Easter Sunday of Mr Putin than they were on the migration policy.

Mr Welby did not mention Mr Putin by name, but he did call for a “Russian ceasefire, withdrawal and a commitment to talks”.

And he repeatedly criticised the invasion and discussed the plight of the Ukrainian people living through and fleeing the war.

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