Church leaders urge forgiveness for disgraced cricketers

Church leaders urge forgiveness for disgraced cricketers

A cheating scandal that has ripped through the core of Australia's most venerated pastime, cricket, prompted church leaders to provide guidance over the Easter weekend on how to emerge from the moral tailspin.

Addressing Sunday's congregation at Sydney's St. Andrew's Cathedral, Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies said the redemption of Easter gives hope of forgiveness to all who face moral failure - even disgraced sportsmen.

Australian cricket was shaken to the core when three national players were discovered to have conspired to scuff the ball with sandpaper during the third test match against South Africa last month.

"When we all look at our own selves, we recognise we've all been there, we've had our own failures," Davies said. "Perhaps not quite as public as Steve Smith's and the other two, but failures nonetheless. If it's hard enough to confront and stand up to a press gallery and admit you're wrong, what would it be like to stand before the living God and admit that you were wrong?"

The inclusion of the ball-tampering in Easter sermons underscores how deep the scandal has run in a sports-loving country that prides itself on fair play. Past cricket giants such as master batsman Sir Donald Bradman are revered for their conduct as much as for their victories.

"None of us have been personally damaged by what Steve Smith and David Warner have done but they represent Australia so we feel it's personal," Everton Hills Wesleyan Methodist Church pastor Nathan Bell told Reuters. "Forgiveness is difficult as not everyone wants to give it."

Bell discussed the cricketing scandal at the conclusion of his Wednesday service in the state of Queensland, leading the congregation in a prayer for Smith and the team.

There was an immediate outpouring of anger after Bancroft's actions were caught on camera, with Australians flooding social media with questions on how to explain the scandal to their children.

A poll by Australian cable television network Sky News found that more than 52 percent of Australians thought suspending players for a season was the most appropriate punishment for ball tampering, while nearly a third supported a lifetime ban.

Church leaders, however, urged forgiveness.

"It seemed like a natural thing to do," Reverend Dr David Reichardt from the Normanhurst Uniting Church in Sydney told Reuters. "Forgiveness means eventually full restoration. I certainly hope the cricket authorities will come to view this in a more kindly light."

 

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