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Saturday, December 10, 2016
Church of England apologises for slave trade
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¬†The Church of England has voted to apologise to the descendants of victims of the slave trade. An amendment "recognising the damage done" to those enslaved was backed overwhelmingly by the General Synod. Debating the motion, Rev Simon Bessant, from Pleckgate, Blackburn, described the Church's involvement in the trade, saying, "We were at the heart of it." Rev Blessant explained the involvement of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts in the slave trade. The organisation owned the Codrington Plantation in Barbados, where slaves had the word "society" branded on their backs with a red-hot iron, he said. He added that when the emancipation of slaves took place in 1833, compensation was paid not to the slaves but to their owners. In one case, he said the Bishop of Exeter and three colleagues were paid nearly £13,000 in compensation for 665 slaves. He said: "We were directly responsible for what happened. In the sense of inheriting our history, we can say we owned slaves, we branded slaves, that is why I believe we must actually recognise our history and offer an apology." The debate heard from descendants of the slave trade including the Rev Nezlin Sterling, of Ealing, west London, who represents black churches. The amendment was supported by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Archbishop of York John Sentamu. Archbishop Sentanu said: "The body of Christ is not just a body that exists at any one time, it exists across history and we therefore share the shame and the sinfulness of our predecessors and part of what we can do, with them and for them in the body of Christ, is prayer for acknowledgement of the failure that is part of us not just of some distant 'them'." The synod passed a motion acknowledging the "dehumanising and shameful" consequences of slavery. Throughout his papacy, Pope John Paul II issued a number of apologies for the part played by the Roman Catholic Church in the slave trade. A recent book, entitled The Popes and Slavery written by Fr Joel S Panzer (Alba House, 1996), points out that the Popes condemned slavery from as early as 1435. Next year a number of commemorative events will mark the 200th anniversary of the Slave Trade Act which abolished slavery in 1807.
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