Over the course of a turbulent year the Archbishop of Canterbury had a series of meetings with James Macintyre during which he spoke about sharia law, capitalism, the disestablishment of the Church, and his love of The West Wing.
On a bleak afternoon in November, a delegation of senior religious leaders from Britain filed out of an exhibit room at Ausch witz in Poland. One man stopped, and stayed staring intently through the glass. Before him was a mass of human hair from those killed in the gas chambers. This man was Dr Rowan Williams and he was praying, silently.
Asked to write an inscription at the memorial, he chose words from Psalm 130: "Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!" Dr Williams walked around the former Nazi extermination camp, a remote figure, keeping a ring of space around him. After the first round of exhibits, one of the party tried to speak to him. He merely shrugged and shook his head; there was nothing adequate to say.
Williams was on a trip to the site, organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust, with nine other faith leaders, including the Chief Rabbi, Jona than Sacks, with whom he talked intensely on the plane on the journey out from London while almost every other passenger slept. The two men have become good friends, and the Chief Rabbi compares their relationship to that of their predecessors, William Temple and Joseph H Hertz, who co-founded the Council of Christians and Jews in 1942. "I have the greatest respect for the Chief Rabbi - a public intellectual," the Archbishop said. "And because he has sometimes found his own community hard work . . . we do occasionally compare notes, dot dot dot."
That "dot dot dot" is something of a characteristic understatement. Several weeks later, we are in a private room at Lambeth Palace reflecting on what has been not just the most testing year in his term at Canterbury, but arguably one of the most difficult for Anglicanism since the Reformation.
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