Pagans demand return of 'their' buildings they claim were 'stolen' by the church

A leader of some of Britain's pagans is demanding the 'return' of two church buildings as compensation for property they claim was stolen from them during the conversion of England 1,300 years ago.

The Odinist Fellowship, representing more than 1,000 pagans, has written to the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby also demanding that the pagans be given a public apology.

The letter, seen by the Sunday Telegraph, says: 'With a view to re-establishing better relations between the Odinist Fellowship and the Christian churches in England, and persuaded that a restitution of past wrongs is the best way to lay the foundations of improved relations, we wish you to be aware that the great majority of Odinists believe that honour requires the English church to issue a public apology for its former crimes against the Odinists.'

Ralph Harrison, director of the Fellowship, told the newspaper 'Two bishops have sent responses, which have been polite, but nothing substantial.

'The objective is just to get the Church to acknowledge that it has got a history of persecution when it comes to the Odinist religion and it has to take stock of that and not just write it out of history.

'Within the Odinist community there is a strong sense of antagonism towards the institutional Church.'

The group wants a church from both the northern and southern provinces of York and Canterbury to compensate for temple grounds it claims were stolen from them by Christian missionaries such as St Augustine.

Harrison described this as 'spiritual genocide' and said the Church of England was in possession of 'a vast quantity of stolen property'.

According Harrison, the Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, replied: 'As yet I am uncertain as to the evidence for the strength of Odinist faith in these parts.'

The Church of England declined to comment