The former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey has hit out at "hysterical" and "baying" critics of the potentially "outstanding" President Donald Trump, and said that he would "of course" attend a state banquet were he still Anglican leader.
Lord Carey of Clifton, who was Archbishop from 1991-2002, told Christian Today that while he did not "by and large" agree with the new President, the choice of the American people should be "honoured and respected" and that Trump "has the strength of personality to be an outstanding President".
He added that the "extraordinary and hysterical reaction" against Trump is "reprehensible" and could "damage the fabric of democracy".
The Prime Minister, Theresa May has announced that Trump has been invited by the Queen to a state visit of the UK later this year, and has reiterated this despite more than 1.6 million people signing a petition against such a visit.
A former head of the Foreign Office has said that the Queen has been put in "a very difficult position" by the invitation.
Lord Carey said: "I am very concerned by the 'baying of populism'. Donald Trump is the elected President of the US and the vote by the American people has to be honoured and respected. His views may not be largely shared - I don't by and large - but I guess that many Americans do share them. I think that Donald Trump will learn on the job and his rhetoric will be toned down as time goes on. He has the strength of personality to be an outstanding President but this is predicated on him acquiring experience and wisdom."
Asked whether he would attend a state banquet in honour of Trump, Lord Carey said: "Of course, because the invitation would come from the Queen in the first instance. But I would also be there to join in the welcome because of the unique links the UK has with the USA. The extraordinary and hysterical reaction against Donald Trump is deeply worrying and reprehensible and, if allowed to continue, could damage the fabric of democracy."
It is not clear whether the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby would accept an invitation to the state banquet hosted by the Queen. Lambeth Palace declined to comment.
Archbishop Welby has not so far joined church leaders around the world who have voiced their opposition to the new President's executive orders halting travel, migration and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The Archbishop issued a prayer after Trump's election last November, saying: "As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office, my continuing prayers are that the United States of America may find reconciliation after a bitter campaign, and that Mr Trump may be given wisdom, insight and grace as he faces the tasks before him. Together we pray for all the people of the United States."
A spokesperson for Westminster Abbey confirmed to Christian Today that the Dean of Westminster, John Hall, would meet the President and take part in the traditional ceremony at the grave of the Unknown Warrior. "We would expect to take part in the ceremony and it would be the Dean of Westminster that would be leading the prayers," the spokesperson said, adding: "The Abbey is a neutral party."
Lord Ricketts, who was permanent secretary at the Foreign Office from 2006 to 2010, said in a letter to the Times that "the Queen is put in a very difficult position" by May's "premature" move.
He said it was unprecedented for a US president to be invited for a state visit in their first year in the White House, and questioned whether Mr Trump was "specially deserving of this exceptional honour".
He wrote: "It would have been far wiser to wait to see what sort of president he would turn out to be before advising the Queen to invite him...Now the Queen is put in a very difficult position".