Archbishop refuses to bless war
Dr Rowan Williams is unwilling to conduct a thanksgiving service for the end of the war in Iraq fearing that it could appear triumphalist.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has told No 10, which is drawing up plans to honour the Armed Forces, that he would be happy to lead or preach at a memorial service, which would have a sombre tone, but is reluctant to take part in a national religious event which might seem to bless conflict reports the Telegraph.
Such reluctance will test the relationship between church and state, but will please those who feel that the church should keep a healthy distance from the armed forces.
Major wars in the past century have however been marked by thanksgiving services.
The Second World War was followed by such an event at St Paul's Cathedral, attended by King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and senior political and military figures.
After the 1982 Falklands conflict, Margaret Thatcher was said to have been angry when the late Lord Runcie, then Archbishop of Canterbury, preached a sermon at the thanksgiving service in St Paul's calling for Christian reconciliation. In a subversive move he suggested that the Argentine dead should be remembered as well as the British.
A remembrance and thanksgiving service for those who served in the 1991 Gulf war was held in Glasgow Cathedral, despite warnings by the Rt Rev David Jenkins, then Bishop of Durham, that any triumphalism would be "obscene".
Insiders said that Dr Williams would feel awkward about taking part in a service which might appear to be at odds with his beliefs.
Calls for such an event are expected to grow over the coming months. But Dr Williams's reservations echo those of other senior figures, who feel that a thanksgiving service would send the wrong message to the Iraqi people.
A national event is not likely to be staged for months because troops are expected to remain in Iraq for some time. America also plans to mark the end of the war.