THE BISHOP of Coventry has called on people in the city to put any feelings of bitterness to one side and respect each other’s views following the public’s decision to leave the European Union in a nationwide referendum.
More than 153,000 city residents turned up at polling stations on Thursday, or sent in their postal votes – with 55.5 per cent voting for Britain to cut its ties with our European neighbours.
A total of 85,097 people voted to leave the EU while 67,967 were positioned in the ‘Remain’ camp.
And following the result of the EU referendum, the Bishop of Coventry, the Right Reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth, has written this statement: “Those who voted Leave will be happy that their voice was heard, and hopeful for our country’s future outside the EU. For those who voted Remain, this will be a day of profound regret and even sorrow. The close final result will only have strengthened these feelings all round.
“There will also be those who have felt disengaged from the long political campaign, and who still feel dismayed at the bitterness with which it was often conducted.
“It will be vital for us all, as we accept the result and deal with what it means, to understand and respect those who take different views of the same event.
“In the debates that will come, we will be most effective if we now seek to heal the divisions of the past campaign. However, those divisions were about such deep issues of national identity and indeed self-identity that doing so will be a difficult and costly task. In the Church, it will be achieved through a renewed focus on what is unchanged, and on what is unchangeable.
“Whether we voted Remain or Leave, or indeed not at all, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. In or out of the EU, we remain together members of Christ’s Body, commanded to build each other up and to love our neighbours. Our Christian identity is neither altered nor defined by how we voted last Thursday.
“Nonetheless, in the coming days and weeks we have a unique opportunity to express our Christian identity, and to witness to it. We can do this in two ways.
“First, as we who took different views work together now the campaign is over. If we can be reconciled without bitterness, then we can be a reconciling people, helping our country to heal the deep divisions that arose in the campaign. As people call for kinder and gentler public debate, we have a responsibility to witness in this way to the gospel’s blessing of peace.
“Secondly, as we speak up boldly in the coming debates for the Christian values we have always held: for peace, for reconciliation, and for a love of our neighbours – global and local – that drive us to meet the world’s needs and not just our own.
“As the Archbishops of Canterbury and York said in their statement this morning, ‘We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers.’ As our leaders put forward their proposals for our country outside the EU, our calling is clear: to pray for them, but also to hold them to account.
“Throughout history, Christ has called his Church to follow him, and so to lead the way in pursuing the common good. The wonderful story of our own Cathedral testifies to this. It is my prayer that in our unity and in our love we may be good witnesses to our country and our world.”