August 13, 2006

British archbishop to hold vigil for Middle East

LONDON (Reuters) - The Archbishop of York, the second most
senior cleric in the Church of England, is to camp inside his
cathedral and forego food for a week in solidarity with those
caught up in the Middle East conflict.

Archbishop John Sentamu said he canceled a planned holiday
and would instead sleep in the 13th century gothic cathedral of
York Minister in northern England.

"In the Middle East there are thousands of people sleeping
in churches, bunkers, underground car parks and shelters in an
attempt to escape from the bombs and rockets that are falling
on both sides of the border," Sentamu said in a statement.

"This act is a rallying call to people of all faiths and
none, to encourage them to feel that there is something that
can be done."

Sentamu, second only to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan
Williams in the hierarchy of the Church of England, said he
would lead prayers every hour for seven days for those affected
by fighting between Israeli troops and Hizbollah guerrillas.

"We have an opportunity to stand up and be counted with
those in Israel, Lebanon and Palestine," said Sentamu, who
starts his vigil on Sunday. "This is what this week will be

Church of England leaders have called for an immediate end
to the fighting, in which over 1,000 people have been killed
and 900,000 have been displaced.

Last month, Williams -- spiritual leader of 77 million
Anglicans worldwide -- said President Bush and British Prime
Minister Tony Blair needed "to change their minds" over their
refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire.

On Friday, Sentamu chastised Bush for saying the United
States was "at war with Islamic fascists," saying such phrases
would do nothing to build better community relations.

"You are not going to do it by that kind of language on the
ranch in Texas," he told BBC radio.

Bush used the phrase on Thursday referring to what British
police said was a plot they had thwarted to blow several
airliners out of the sky on their way to the United States.

Sentamu asked people to join him in a spirit of fasting
next week by foregoing a meal and donating the money they save
to charities working in the Middle East.