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Witness statement by the Registrar of St Paul’s

by
15 December 2011

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From the Revd Paul Nicolson

Sir, — I have read the witness statement of the Registrar of St Paul’s Cathedral accusing Occupy London of desecration and submitting photographs. It is a sad and unworthy denigration of people involved in a great movement.

The unacceptable behaviour of which the Registrar of St Paul’s rightly complains should have been dealt with by the police im­mediately. Why did they let it run on, when the City of London has its own police force ready and able to deal with particular offenders?

I have been present when the Occupy assembly agreed democratically to co-operate with the police, the fire service, and on health and safety matters, and to enter into liaison with the Cathed­ral. It is not right to blame them.

That great cathedral stands for a faith that is at its best when it mixes with people in the streets and shares their burdens; but the Registrar can write only about the inconvenience to its congregation, clergy, staff, and finances. He ignores the fact that the needs of the nation, and nations, to find a better way forward are represented by some voluntary, highly intelligent, and well-motivated people camping on their doorstep. What better place for such a vital protest?

Many representatives of Christian Churches and other faiths, at the Sermon on the Steps organised by Christian members of Occupy, emphasised the importance of the way in which the movement is creating a debate not only about how things went so wrong that we ended up in the current economic disaster, but how society might be better ordered in the future.

This is a vital debate that the St Paul’s Cathedral Institute, working in the City of London, has never brought to the attention of the public with the effectiveness of Occupy. Its Tent City University provides an opportunity in a tent for open and very well-informed public discussion, the high quality of which does not take place anywhere else in London.

The noise of the street is inevitable for a city cathedral; but the Registrar complains that it upsets the prayers of the clergy. In this context, it is symbolic of a cry from the hearts of millions in the UK that the City of London has failed them for decades while lining their own pockets, and Parliament has let it happen.

Occupy understands the need for respect, as the many people can testify who joined hands on 11 November at 11 o’clock, and formed a great circle outside the cathedral for the two minutes’ silence; the Last Post was played, and the cathedral clergy gave a blessing.

The Chapter of St Paul’s will, one day, be grateful for Occupy’s initiative, and become ashamed of the Registrar’s legal evidence supporting the City’s action to evict the campers, when they see it in the spirit of the Christian faith.

PAUL NICOLSON
Chair, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust
34 Grosvenor Gardens
London SW1W 0DH

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