After initially pledging to remain neutral, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared this weekend he will be voting ‘Remain’ in the European Union (EU) referendum this month.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Justin Welby, the most senior cleric in the Church of England, said he reached his decision based on how the EU “came together in a Europe broken beyond description by war”.
He also said that immigration, which is fast becoming the main issue in the campaign, had to be “addressed honestly – without succumbing to our worst instincts”.
He insisted, however, that the Church of England does not have an official “line”, adding: “In no sense do I have some divine hotline to the right answer. But for my part, I shall vote to remain.”
The archbishop’s intervention comes as polls show a continuing swing towards Brexit with less than two weeks to go before polling day.
The Archbishop of Canterbury becomes the latest Christian leader to state which side they are supporting in the EU referendum.
Although many have not openly declared, the majority of senior clerics in most Christian denominations are widely believed to be against Brexit.
Cardinals Vincent Nichols and Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the present and previous leaders of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, have both openly spoken in favour of Remain, however not all clerics share their views.
Peter Smith, the Archbishop of Southwark, is strongly Eurosceptic and recently described the Remain campaign’s scare tactics and “ludicrous”.
“I am very sceptical of the economic arguments that the Chancellor makes. When he does a budget, very often by the end of the year his forecasts are all over the place,” Archbishop Smith told Vatican Radio.
“With this real fundamental desire to become more integrated, like a European [United] States – that, many of us find difficult to swallow,” he added. “I don’t think that is the right thing to do.”
Liberal Catholic magazine The Tablet also claims the Provost of the London Oratory, one of the most influential Catholic churches in England, supports Brexit.
The magazine reports him as saying: “Unfettered, we can fly… We shall be stronger allies in the struggle for freedom out than in.”