- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2011

LONDON — The senior St. Paul’s Cathedral priest who welcomed anti-capitalist demonstrators to camp outside the London landmark resigned Thursday, saying he feared moves to evict the protesters could end in violence.

Other senior clergy and politicians urged the campers to leave peacefully, as the cathedral announced it would reopen to the public Friday after a weeklong closure triggered by the demonstrators’ tents.

“In the name of God and mammon, go,” London Mayor Boris Johnson said, using a Biblical turn of phrase to evoke the conflict between the spiritual and the material.

Resigning Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser said on Twitter that he had handed in his notice “with great regret and sadness.”

He told the Guardian newspaper that he had quit because he believed cathedral officials had “set on a course of action that could mean there will be violence in the name of the church.”

“I cannot support using violence to ask people to clear off the land,” said Mr. Fraser, adding that he would have preferred to have “negotiated down the size of the camp” with the protesters.

Mr. Fraser’s departure reveals divisions among cathedral clergy over how to handle the protest on their doorstep. The dean of St. Paul’s, the Rt. Rev. Graeme Knowles, said he was sorry to see Mr. Fraser go and regretted that he “is not able to continue to his work […] during these challenging days.”

Several hundred protesters have been camped outside the building since Oct. 15. When police tried to move them the next day, Mr. Fraser said the demonstrators were welcome to stay and asked police officers to move instead.

He later issued a statement stressing that “the Christian gospel is profoundly committed to the needs of the poor and the dispossessed. Financial justice is a gospel imperative.”

Days later, cathedral officials shut the building to the public, saying the campsite was a health and safety hazard.

It was the first time the 300-year-old church, one of London’s best-known buildings, had closed since World War II.

On Thursday, the cathedral said it would reopen after changes to the layout of the protesters’ tents.

In a statement, St. Paul’s said the church would open to worshippers and visitors with a special midday Eucharist  on Friday — though the soaring dome and galleries will stay shut for now amid concerns about how long it would take to evacuate them.

The Rev. Michael Colclough, canon pastor of St. Paul’s, said Friday’s service would “be remembering all those involved in the events of the past week and praying for a peaceful outcome.”

The protesters say they plan to stay put, but senior church officials and politicians repeated calls Thursday for them to go. London Bishop Richard Chartres promised to take up the demonstrators’ cause if they left.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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