Tom Harper and Peter Dominiczak
27 Oct 2011
A senior Church of England cleric resigned today in the latest extraordinary twist in the siege of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser quit in protest at the cathedral’s plan to clear the anti-capitalist protesters encamped in a tent city on its doorstep for the last 12 days.
Announcing his departure after it had backed moves to evict them, Dr Fraser wrote: “I resigned because I believe that the Chapter has set on a course of action that could mean there will be violence in the name of the Church.”
On a day of high drama:
Boris Johnson called for new laws to prevent tent cities “erupting like boils” across London in the wake of the St Paul’s protest, telling the activists: “In the name of God and Mammon, go.”
The Bishop of London said he will meet the protesters on Sunday to invite them to a debate inside the cathedral if they agree to leave the camp.
Lawyers representing the Occupy London movement vowed that they will fight every attempt to eject them from their churchyard base.
Speaking exclusively to the Standard, Dr Fraser, 47, said he was forced to quit when the cathedral backed moves to clear the demonstrators.
“The Church should not put its name to any course of action that may lead to violence against the protesters. I can’t in conscience go down the road on which they are embarked.”
At least 200 protesters are in tents outside the 300-year-old cathedral which was forced to close last Friday for the first time since the 1940 Blitz.
In his first interview since leaving office, Dr Fraser said: “I care deeply for my colleagues at St Paul’s and our discussions in the last few days have been incredibly thoughtful.”
Police, senior City of London Corporation officials and leading clerics from St Paul’s have been locked in talks for days in a bid to find a way
to end the encampment that has “squeezed the life” out of the city.
It is understood the cathedral will join the corporation in seeking a High Court injunction allowing police officers to remove the protesters.
In an appeal to the activists today, the Mayor said: “In the name of God and Mammon, go. For the good of the economy and the wellbeing of the Church. London needs new by-laws, proper ground rules to stop people being able to camp anywhere without being moved on.”
He also hinted that City of London Police may remove empty tents from the site as they are considered to be “abandoned property”.
A City of London Police spokesman said he “could not comment on what our tactics are”.
The Mayor added: “We are in discussion with the authorities to stop these encampments erupting like boils across the city. It is very important for London.”
It is understood Dr Fraser is not alone in his view among senior colleagues at St Paul’s that enforced removal of demonstrators would be a disaster for the Church.
Dr Fraser quit as the Dean of St Paul’s admitted the crisis engulfing the cathedral was “its most difficult times since the Second World War”.
Graeme Knowles said: “Giles has brought a unique contribution to the life and ministry of St Paul’s and we will be very sorry to see him go.
“We are obviously disappointed he is not able to continue his work with the Chapter during these challenging days. We will miss his humour and humanity and wish Giles and his family every good wish into the future.”
Dr Fraser, who has lectured in philosophy at Oxford University said: “Like many people, I am not entirely sure what this protest camp is for.
“My own view is not that capitalism is an inherently bad thing. It has created jobs and prosperity but it is clear prosperity has not been fairly distributed in our society.”
The Chelsea fan and former Vicar of Putney rejected allegations that he helped protesters by sanctioning their right to camp outside the cathedral last weekend.
He said he has no plans to leave the Church of England.