Dean of St Paul’s Graeme Knowles addressing protesters on Sunday
3:29pm UK, Monday October 31, 2011
The Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral has resigned amid criticism of the handling of protesters camping outside the iconic church.
The Rt Rev Graeme Knowles announced his intention to quit his post after informing the Chapter and Bishop of London on Sunday night.
He has removed himself from operations with immediate effect and is submitting his resignation to the Queen.
The dean is the second figure to quit in the wake of the Occupy London protest taking over the area outside the cathedral.
Clergy are divided over how to handle the protesters camped outside
In a statement, he said: “The past fortnight has been a testing time for the Chapter and for me personally.
“It has become increasingly clear to me that, as criticism of the cathedral has mounted in the press, media and in public opinion, my position as Dean of St Paul’s was becoming untenable.
“In order to give the opportunity for a fresh approach to the complex and vital questions facing St Paul’s, I have thought it best to stand down as dean, to allow new leadership to be exercised.
“I do this with great sadness, but I now believe that I am no longer the right person to lead the Chapter of this great cathedral.”
He added: “In recent days, since the arrival of the protesters’ camp outside the cathedral, we have all been put under a great deal of strain and have faced what would appear to be some insurmountable issues.
“I hope and pray that under new leadership these issues might continue to be addressed and that there might be a swift and peaceful resolution.”
The Occupy London protest outside the church started two weeks ago
The Chancellor of St Paul’s, Canon Giles Fraser, resigned last week amid a row over how to handle the anti-capitalist protest.
Hundreds of demonstrators set up in front of the world famous landmark almost two weeks ago – inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York.
Clergy have been divided over how to deal with the scores of tents, which forced the church to close its doors for the first time since the Second World War.
St Paul’s and the City of London Corporation have both now taken legal action to try and force their eviction, seeking separate High Court injunctions.
The dean and Bishop of London met with members of the camp on Sunday but there was acrimony over the decision to resort to the courts.
Since the arrival of the protesters’ camp outside the cathedral, we have all been put under a great deal of strain and have faced what would appear to be some insurmountable issues.
Rt Rev Graeme Knowles
The Bishop, Dr Richard Chartres, described the dean’s resignation as “very sad” but said he had “acted honourably in a very difficult situation”.
He added: “There are many diverse voices in the camp outside St Paul’s but among them, serious issues are being articulated which the cathedral has always sought to address.
“While St Paul’s is not on any particular political side – that is not its role – it does have an important part to play in providing a place for reasoned debate within a moral and spiritual context.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said Mr Knowles would be “much missed” and called for the clergy at the cathedral to be shown understanding.
Of the protest, he added: “The urgent larger issues raised by the protesters at St Paul’s remain very much on the table and we need – as a Church and as society as a whole – to work to make sure that they are properly addressed.”
Protesters also sad they were saddened by the resignation. Joel Benjamin, 29, from Vauxhall, said: “It’s not their responsibility – it’s about the financial system, it’s not about the Church of England.”
In a statement, the Occupy London movement insisted its demonstration was not aimed at the staff of the cathedral and that they were not seeking for people to quit.
“We reiterate the need for open and transparent dialogue involving all parties, including the cathedral, the Corporation of London and others, through our relevant liaison groups,” it said.
“This is a historic opportunity to make a real difference and a real change for all in our society, in the UK and beyond.”