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Archbishop's moving farewell

THE Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, preached his last sermon at Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday.

During the Michaelmas sermon Dr Carey, who retires at the end of October, thanked the people of the city for making him so welcome over the last decade.

Retired head teacher Nina Fox summed up everyone's feelings when she said: "Today I feel both gladness and sadness. I have always admired the Archbishop and think he and his wife are really wonderful."

Dr Carey stopped by the 81-year-old's wheelchair to shake her hand and say hello on his way to the pulpit to deliver his final sermon.

That small gesture was so characteristic of Dr Carey, whose approachable and down-to-earth manner has made him a popular head of the Church of England.

Within a few minutes the congregation was chuckling as he shared his sense of humour, welcoming local dignitaries, VIPs and visiting Bishops. "I'm not sure what the collective name for Bishops is...a bench, bevy or flock," he mused.

The service came exactly 40 years after his ordination as a Deacon in St Paul's Cathedral. Canterbury Cathedral was a similarly awe-inspiring place of worship, Dr Carey said. "It is not a bad place to say farewell. Farewell to a city that has made Eileen and myself so welcome during these last 11-and-a-half years."

Community and transformation were the themes of his address. He spoke movingly of a man who worked with Aids victims in South Africa and of a boy shot in Gaza by an Israeli soldier who wrongly thought the six-year-old was carrying a gun.

The Archbishop also told the story of a young priest sent to work in a deprived area of Los Angeles who, through unconditional and transforming love, created a community out of nothing.

"If we want transforming communities, hope must be central to them. There - there has to be reason for going on. A great cathedral like this cannot survive on memory alone - it has to look forward, it has to have a reason for believing that the best is yet to be," he said.

After the Sung Eucharist service the congregation was invited to drinks in the Chapter House. Dr Carey returned to the Cathedral on Sunday evening for the Diocesan service at 6.30pm. His last duty in the city is expected to take place on October 13 when a new Canon will be installed.

His successor, Dr Rowan Williams, will be enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury in the early part of 2003.

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