THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury has urged the world to pray for a miracle in the Middle East on a historic visit to Petersfield.

There was standing room only in St Peter’s on Sunday as the Very Rev Justin Welby joined worshippers for a very special Choral Evensong.

The visit – possibly the first by an Archbishop to Petersfield – concluded a three-day mission around the Diocese of Portsmouth.

His Grace spoke about a church report on the social care system and praised the Anna Chaplaincy on their work in Hampshire during an interview with Debbie Thrower.

But the unfolding tragedy in Israel and Gaza was arguably the biggest talking point.

“One of the dangers of this time is that you are expected to react so quickly,” commented the Archbishop about a recent visit to a refugee camp in south Armenia.

“The first question I got was ‘does anyone in England know what’s happening here?’ and I said ‘probably not much but I will make sure I do’.

Debbie and Archbishop
Debbie Thrower interviewed the Archbishop of Canterbury with subjects including Gaza, social care, Anna Chaplains and the quality of the church's work in the Diocese of Portsmouth (Tindle/Paul Ferguson)

"But I realised any hope of drawing attention to Armenia was gone because of what happened in Israel.”

His Grace added: “We have to be vehemently strong against any instance of anti-Semitism in this country because it’s so deeply rooted.

“We have also not been clear about the plight of civilians in Gaza. There’s an Anglican hospital in Gaza which was twice hit by missiles last night.

“As for the plight caused by the horrific attack by the absolute evil that is represented by Hamas, it has to be defeated as you can’t turn around to an Israeli and say ‘don’t worry about it’.”

Thankfully, there was also plenty of light with St Peter’s choir being “enhanced” with counterparts from All Saints in Botley. St Peter’s vicar, Rev Will Hughes, called the visit “an honour”.

He said: “I don’t think we know the last time an Archbishop came to Petersfield so it’s exciting to be rounding off his mission.”