St Paul’s canon quits over protest

By Alex Stevenson

The St Paul's canon who initially welcomed anti-capitalist protesters has resigned, revealing deep divisions within the cathedral's staff.

Reverend Canon Giles Fraser, seen as a key left-wing figure within the Church of England, indicated he had quit over the cathedral's support for plans to oust the Occupy protesters using police and bailiffs.

He said in a statement to the Guardian that he had quit 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".

Dr Fraser was a former vicar of Putney who took up the St Paul's canon post, a crown appointment, in June 2009.

St Paul's Dean, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, said he was "obviously disappointed" by Dr Fraser's decision to walk away from the cathedral "during these challenging days".

"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," he said.

"We will miss his humour and humanity and wish Giles and his family every good wish into the future."

Dr Fraser had welcomed the protesters to church grounds two weeks ago. He indicated his support for their cause by delivering a sermon criticising money-grabbing corporate giants.

His exit comes as St Paul's staff prepare to reopen the cathedral on Friday afternoon, after protesters moved away from the entrance to the building. A clear pathway has been restored, the protesters' kitchen has moved away from the cathedral and bicycles chained to railings have been shifted.

"We will revisit the risk assessment in the light of any overnight developments and subject to us getting the green light we hope to reopen in time for the 12:30 eucharist on Friday to which everyone is welcome," Dean Knowles said yesterday.

The cathedral is taking legal advice on the protesters' status and has repeated its request that they leave the site. Every day's closure of the cathedral has cost St Paul's £20,000.