THE Bishop of Burnley has revealed for the first time how he received death threats after the town’s riots in 2001.
Bishop John Goddard, who announced last week that he will retire after almost 14 years in the post, said he was the victim of threatening mail and phone calls after trouble flared.
The 66-year-old, who was appointed bishop in 2000, said the police were called in to investigate after he was posted ‘white powder’, along with six or seven abusive letters.
The powder, which it is believed was meant to look like anthrax powder, turned out to be harmless.
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He also received four phone calls from people threatening him with baseball bats and claiming that he would ‘be on the back of a cattle truck soon’.
The ‘adopted Lancastrian’, who will lead his last service in July, said: “The riots were a very distressing and frightening time for me and were a huge challenge to get through for everyone involved.
“It was extremely unpleasant and it was a frightening having police in full riot gear around because it’s not something you see in England all that much.”
Despite the personal threats, the former parish priest became heavily involved in a task force which worked to get to the bottom of the unrest.
The group also sought to improve inter-faith relationships in the town - an achievement he is ‘very proud’ of more than 10 years on.
He said: “It was important for the church and those of other faiths to work together and I’m proud to be a founding member of Building Bridges Burnley.
“We needed to expose the lies that were being told by the BNP.
“I received some very interesting phone calls that I never expected to hear and that’s when the death threats started.
“I was reminded by someone who got in touch that they had baseball bats at the ready and that I should be aware.
“It was a difficult and distressing time but the fellowship and support of Burnley people and Lancashire people over all gave me encouragement.
“It was a real team effort, across all faiths and community groups, to get Burnley back on track and I’m proud of my role in that.
“Inter-faith relationships were there but have now become a lot more established and there is a real sense of partnership and working together for the general benefit of the community.”
Bishop John will lead his final service in his current role in July and intends to retire to Tarleton with his wife of 43 years, Vivienne.
Alongside his other duties, Bishop John also serves as an advisor to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on inter-faith relations in the north.