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The new God squad: what Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis have in common

By Damian Thompson, Spectator

Evangelicals have taken charge in the Vatican and Lambeth Palace

It’s a few weeks after the election of Pope Francis, and a notoriously leaky church source is talking about the revolution to come. The new leader of the faithful is a sharp operator who finds himself surrounded by ‘a medieval court system of hopeless characters, each jealously guarding their own silos of activity. There’s lots of crap people in key positions.’ Meanwhile, away from the court, bureaucrats churn out windy memos. They may not know it yet, but the process of ‘clearing out the weeds’ will start soon — possibly as early as this August.

That might seem over-ambitious, but we’re not talking about the sleepy Vatican. The source is an Anglican cleric and the ‘medieval court’ is Lambeth Palace; the shinypants bureaucrats are mostly in Church House, Westminster, headquarters of the General Synod. And the new man who can’t abide flummery is, of course, the Most Revd Justin Welby, oil executive turned Archbishop of Canterbury.

The similarities between Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis are almost spooky — once you get past the fact that one is an Old Etonian evangelical Protestant and the other a South American Jesuit who prays in front of garlanded statues of Mary. Archbishop Welby was enthroned two days after Francis was inaugurated. That’s simple coincidence, but the other parallels tell us a lot.

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