The world may face something 'worse' than Covid-19 unless it changes direction, Archbishop of York warns

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell

There may be more pandemics in the future unless mankind learns how to be a good steward of the Earth, the Archbishop of York has warned.

In an online New Year's service, Archbishop Stephen Cottrell said he was "hoping and praying that 2021 will be an improvement on 2020" but that he feared there could be something worse in store than Covid-19.

He said he was looking back at the past year with thanksgiving but "also great anguish and sorrow for the horrors that engulfed our world and continue to challenge us".

In his sermon, the Archbishop also linked the outbreak of Covid-19 to man's "mistreatment of the planet".

"Even as we try to get Covid-19 under control, war and famine still ravage our world, and our dependence on fossil fuels and our inability to wake up to the damage it is doing to our planet set other clocks ticking which make the security of our world ever more fragile," he said.

"We know - but don't acknowledge so that it changes our behaviour - that Covid-19 itself was made ever more likely to occur because of our mistreatment of the planet. 

"As wild areas of our world disappear, and rainforests are cut down, as temperatures and sea levels rise and as the equilibrium of our planet is disturbed, we may have to face other pandemics and worse besides." 

He said that humans needed to "learn how to be stewards of the earth".

"We, the human race, need to change direction," he said. 

The Archbishop of York is starting the New Year by releasing a nine-part series of short reflections on the theme, 'Our Hope is Found'.

In the first reflection, the Archbishop likens today's situation to the story in the Old Testament of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to worship the king's golden idol but instead trusted in God, whether or not He rescued them from the fiery furnace.

Commenting on the series, Cottrell said: "2020 has been an incredibly hard year for everyone, and it is going to be a long time before we begin to feel some semblance of normality return. We all need hope, and I believe that our hope is found in the person of Jesus Christ.

"Knowing God through him brings life, peace, and hope that no matter what happens he is with us. As people listen to the reflections I pray they can see that as we trust in God and seek to follow him, we can have a peace which is beyond our understanding and a hope that is sure and steadfast for what is to come."

The reflections are available to watch on the Archbishop's Facebook page and YouTube channel.