The Bishop of Liverpool had ‘countered some very serious questions’ about how God could let such a tragedy happen, while he was Chairman of the Hillsborough panel.
Speaking after the release of the panel’s findings last week, the Rt Rev James Jones spoke of his personal feelings surrounding the evidence found, but could not comment on what should happen as a result of it.
However, he observed: “Justice is very important to society.”
Bishop Jones revealed he had to have a series of ‘robust’ discussions with politicians when the Coalition took power to ensure the investigation, which was established under the Labour Government, could continue against a sea of budget cuts.
The chairman of he Panel said: “Indeed, without breaking any confidences I can say that in meetings with various politicians I was not afraid to assert [my] independence.”
He added independence was one of the reasons he was chosen to head the group, not only politically but also that as a member of the Church he was best able to show the families of the victims that he has no agenda or bias.
He explained: “For all its faults and foibles, the Church is still known to be working for the universal good of the people.”
When asked whether these ‘assertions’ of independence were due to the threat of the panel being likely to have been cut, he replied that the he had not been ‘lent on’ by the Coalition.
After a silence, he continued: “It is no secret that the incoming government was not bound by the decisions of the previous government and therefore I had to see various secretaries of state to make the case for the panel continuing at public cost when there were pressures on the public purse.
“Since I do not owe my patronage to politicians I was able to state very clearly why I believe that it was right for the panel to continue.”
He was asked what arguments he put forward in these conversations, and said he told them that when 21 or 22 years have gone on and you still do not know why your child died, you grief will never be properly resolved.
The Bishop spoke about the report’s findings; the depth of the cover-up and the effect he knew this would have on the families.
Bishop Jones spoke of the personal importance the case had with him, and how he was ‘inspired by the dignified determination of the families’.
He revealed: “On my desk in my study I have a photograph of the stadium at 2.29pm on the day and I have the names of all the 96.
“I put those there at the very beginning to remind me each day of the importance of their trust.”
The Bishop of Liverpool made these comments at a BBC festival which examined faith in Britain.
He ended the session by saying: “I hope it is not too pietistic in a way that I did feel a call from God to do this but that call was countered by very serious questions about how God could have let such a serious tragedy happen in the first place.”
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