Leap of faith: Archbishop of York skydives for army charity

Dr John Sentamu - the 97th Archbishop of York - jumped out of a plane with the Red Devils, the British Army's Parachute Regiment freefall display team, to raise money for the new charity Afghanistan Trust.

The charity was set up to help injured members of the British Army and the soldiers' families.

Dr Sentamu was born in Uganda, which gained independence from Britain in 1962, and came to Britain to escape from ruthless dictator Idi Amin.

The Arcbhbishop of York is the third highest ranking figure in the Church of England after the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Archbishop of York's official residence is Bishopthorpe Palace in York.

High and flighty ... Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, free-falls with Red Devil Lee Read

Archbishop takes a leap of faith

By MARTIN PHILLIPS at 13,000ft
07 Jun 2008
The Sun

Plunging Primate ... Archbishop of York

Safe landing ... Dr John Sentamu and Lee Read touch down

WHEN the time comes for action, he has never been afraid to jump in with both feet.

And yesterday the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, did it again – this time from more than two miles up in a sponsored parachute jump to highlight the plight of our brave soldiers.

Just four days before his 59th birthday, the daredevil clergyman took the plunge from 13,000ft to raise funds for the Afghanistan Trust.

His grace had tried to do the tandem jump with the Red Devils – the Parachute Regiment’s elite freefall display team – last month but was beaten by the weather.

Yesterday it appeared he had friends in high places as the clouds cleared.

Dr Sentamu set out on his “Leap Of Faith” with the personal thanks of the head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt.

He was aiming to raise £50,000 for the Afghanistan Trust to help injured members of the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, and families of soldiers killed in action.

The Sun, with our support for the Help For Heroes charity, made sure we were behind him all the way – even if it meant I had to jump too!

On the ground ... with Sun journalist and fellow jumper Martin Phillips

As Dr Sentamu walked to the light aircraft waiting to get him airborne, he joked “Pray for me!” as he was strapped to Red Devil Lee Read. And as the aircraft climbed through the clouds, he was given a final briefing before the door opened at 13,000ft.

The Archbishop shuffled to the exit with Lance Corporal Read before the pair launched themselves into the wide blue yonder.

Outspoken Dr Sentamu – who famously cut up his dog collar on TV in December in protest at Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime in Zimbabwe – said later: “I did a lot of praying in the plane. I was praying for the soldiers and their families.

“At the point of no return I was reciting the 23rd Psalm to myself while trying not to forget my jump instructions.

“I got as far as, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not . . .’ then suddenly, whoosh!, we were out!”

Holy orders ... Archbishop of York arriving for the jump with the British Army

With the ground rushing towards him at up to 150mph, and the wind buffeting his face, Ugandan-born Dr Sentamu was in freefall for some 35 seconds as two other Red Devils, with orange smoke billowing from ankle canisters, joined themselves to him for a mini-aerobatic display.

Then, at 5,000ft, L/Cpl Read pulled the rip cord, marking the start of a gentle five-minute descent. After a couple of elegant spins, the Archbishop landed safely at Langar Airfield in Nottinghamshire and signed V for victory.

He said of the jump, which took place on the 64th anniversary of D-Day: “It was fantastic, absolutely exhilarating.

“It was an amazing, amazing experience. I thought, ‘Why have I taken so long to do this?’.”

Asked what had motivated him, Dr Sentamu explained: “It’s important for citizens of this country to value those who risk their lives for the sake of this country, so I’m just doing my part.

“It’s not only about raising money. It’s about raising the profile of the men and women fighting on our behalf. These young men go out to Afghanistan because they have been sent there and some of them die. What do we do as a country for them? What about their widows and children? We need to take it more seriously. The government need to look after them better.

“If soldiers live in your community, don’t just think the Government will look after them – it’s up to all of us.”

Dr Sentamu continued: “I was against the war in Iraq but once the political decision had been taken, people needed to care for our soldiers.

“Afghanistan was a different question, but these people are not fighting in their own name – they are fighting in the name of Her Majesty’s Government and for all of us.

“More than 60 years after the end of the Second World War, people might not think it is important any more but the Army has defended the freedom not just of this country but others and we should prize them as the people who stand between oppression and justice.”

You can donate to the Archbishop’s appeal by sending cheques to: The Afghanistan Trust, 3 PARA, Hyderabad Barracks, Mersea Road, Colchester, Essex CO2 7TB, or see afghanistantrust.org (external - login to view).

I rather like his running shoes..looks very nice with his outfit
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