Gallery: Archbishop of Canterbury visits Suffolk

A CATHEDRAL'S impressive programme of redevelopment has today been given an official blessing by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dave Gooderham

A CATHEDRAL'S impressive programme of redevelopment has today been given an official blessing by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The millennium project of St Edmundsbury Cathedral was overseen by Dr Rowan Williams who consecrated the Chapel of the Transfiguration, Crypt and Cloisters during a special service.

Dr Williams then enjoyed a walk around Abbey Gardens, in Bury St Edmunds, and spoke with church officials, visitors and local school children.

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Speaking after the service, Dr Williams paid tribute to how the modern work sat with the historical significance of the building.

He said: “The work on the cathedral is an extraordinary achievement and combines the old and new and is very striking and fresh.

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“The amount of people going to church might have decreased but cathedrals like Bury are showing a substantial increase.”

Away from his compliments to the cathedral, Dr Williams also spoke of his sadness about the MPs' expenses scandal and the reaction of the public.

He said: “The scandal is very sad for the country and confusion in politics can often lead to either extremism or apathy.”

In front of a packed cathedral, with an estimated 800 people in the congregation, the service marked the culmination of the cathedral Millennium Project which included the completion of the tower.

During the ceremony, in front of a host of dignitaries, Dr Williams paid tribute to the building project and the imagination shown before blessing the new work with holy water.

Speaking afterwards, Michael Hampel , cathedral sub-dean, said: “The visit of the Archbishop was a great honour - he is the leader of our church and part of something much bigger than Bury.

“It is very exciting to have a 'VIP' and shows the importance of the project. When completing so much building work, it can be very tiring with all the fund raising and this has given us a massive boost.

“It has taken 50 years to finish the cathedral and this has been a very colourful full stop. But building work is never truly complete, it just passes on to the next stage of development.”

While the numbers watching on the street were not the same, the service was as rich in tradition as the Maundy Money service on Good Friday.

In keeping with a prestigious few months, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh attended the ceremony in April and handed out ancient coins to 83 men and women.

The visit of the Archbishop is regarded as the highlight of the Cathedral Festival which runs for the first two weeks of June and celebrates the achievements of recent years while looking forward to the next stage of its development.

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