His words shocked millions of Protestants worldwide because they not only signified a break with Protestant teaching on the Virgin Mary but also Dr Williams’s personal acceptance of the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is explicitly linked to the apparitions.
He also praised the lives of the saints, another devotion seen as distinctively Roman Catholic.
‘Lourdes represents everything about Roman Catholicism that the Protestant Reformation ejected, including apparitions, mariolatry and the veneration of saints.
‘The archbishop's simple presence there is a wholesale compromise, and his sermon which included a reference to Mary as “the Mother of God” is a complete denial of Protestant orthodoxy.’
He added: ‘At a time when our country is crying out for clear Biblical leadership, it is nothing short of tragic that our supposedly Protestant archbishop is behaving as little more than a papal puppet.’
The presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury indicates that mainstream Anglican and Catholic leaders remain committed to closer relations in spite of differences over the ordination of women and sexually-active gay men as priests and bishops.