The archbishop of Canterbury has called on Britons to be more generous as they emerge from the pandemic, urging people to provide a “better future for all” rather than living in a society that only benefits the rich and powerful.

In his Easter Sunday sermon, Justin Welby, the most senior bishop in the Church of England, said society had a choice to make as it emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We can go on as before Covid, where the most powerful and the richest gain and so many fall behind,” he said at Canterbury Cathedral. “We have seen where that left us. Or we can go with the flooding life and purpose of the resurrection of Jesus, which changes all things, and choose a better future for all.”

He criticised the government’s plan to reduce the amount it spends on international aid at a time of global crisis. “The overwhelming generosity of God to us should inspire the same by us, in everything from private acts of love and charity to international aid generously maintained,” he said. “We have received overwhelmingly, so let us give generously.”

The archbishop’s message also made reference to all those who had died since the start of the pandemic. He described the past year as “yet another cruel period of history taking from us those we loved, ending lives cruelly and tragically,” but said the story of Jesus’s resurrection gave hope to Christians.

Religious services have been heavily disrupted by the pandemic over the last year, although socially distanced congregations have recently been allowed to return across the UK. Church choirs in England have also been able to resume singing since Palm Sunday, although their numbers have been limited by social distancing requirements.

Many churches, however, have continued with online broadcasts of services for the safety of those attending. On Friday police raided a Catholic church in London and shut down its service in the belief that social distancing rules were being broken.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster and leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, described his joy at seeing worshippers return to churches after the “strange, strange experience” of the past year.

He urged all Catholics to reflect on the sacrifice made by Jesus and to “thank God for the effectiveness of vaccines, which we must all take up”.

Nichols said: “It enables us to get, again, a little bit nearer to the rhythm of our life and of the living and expression of our faith.”

This content first appear on the guardian

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