Arbishop criticises press over ‘pagan’ link

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icWales, Aug. 4, 2002

By Jamie Lyons and Phil Hazlewood

The incoming Archbishop of Canterbury today criticised the press for portraying him as a pagan.

Dr Rowan Williams will tomorrow be made an honorary white druid as part of an ancient Celtic cultural tradition.

But Dr Williams, who was last month named as the successor to Dr George Carey, said the suggestion that the honour was linked to paganism was offensive.

“The suggestion perpetrated recently by some elements of the British daily press that the Gorsedd is even remotely associated with paganism is deeply offensive – not just in the suggestion that I would wish to associate myself in any way with paganism, but also to those people of goodwill in Wales who appreciate the Gorsedd and Eisteddfod for the colour and culture which they bring to Wales’s national life,” he said.

The award was “one of the greatest honours which Wales can bestow on her citizens”, he said.
Dr Williams, currently Archbishop of Wales, will attend a ceremony in St David’s, Pembrokeshire, to become a member of the highest of the three orders of the Gorsedd of Bards.

The Gorsedd is made up of Welsh-speaking poets, writers, musicians, artists and others who have made a distinguished contribution to Welsh language and culture.

Previous Archbishops of Wales were similarly honoured, as was former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies.

The word druid is used because when the Gorsedd was founded in 1792 there was a fantasy that druids had supremacy in ancient Britain.

Dr Williams, 52, will wear a long, white cloak during his initiation at the national Eisteddfod.

The ceremony starts with a trumpet fanfare and the partial sheathing and unsheathing of a 6ft 6ins sword.

Dr Williams will join his hands in prayer and have them enfolded in those of the Archdruid, retired lawyer and deputy circuit judge Dr Robyn Lewis.

The churchman will then be given a new bardic name while the Mistress of the Robes, Sian Aman, will dress him in a white headdress before he joins other members inside the sacred circle.

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This post was last updated: Monday, November 30, -0001 at 12:00 AM, Central European Time (CET)