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Barnet vicar: church needs to be broker between City of London Corporation and protesters
A CLERGYMAN from Friern Barnet says the Church of England “needs to be a broker for conversation” between anti-capitalist protesters and the City of London Corporation.
The Church of England has come under scrutiny over its handling of the Occupy London protest group, which has been campaigning against the financial system outside St Paul's Cathedral for more than a fortnight.
As the anti-capitalist protesters set up camp, pitching up tents and refusing to move, St Paul’s closed its doors to the public for the first time since World War Two.
Rev Adrian Benjamin who is a vicar at All Saints church in Friern Barnet and was given the honorary title of prebendary for St Paul's in 2007, defended the decision.
He said: “It was absolutely necessary. If at any stage it had rained people would almost certainly have gone into the cathedral and there could have been scenes of violence, sit-ins and from a health and safety point of view it had to close.”
Following the week-long closure, the cathedral's dean, Rt Rev Graeme Knowles resigned four days after its canon chancellor Dr Giles Fraser also quit.
Rev Benjamin said: “I think Rev Knowles had done his bit to bridge the gap. I think he made the right but sad decision to step down, and let the Bishop of London Dr Richard Chartres, come in.
"The bishop can make moves the dean couldn’t – the bishop’s brief is to look after the whole of London and therefore is a much more flexible and powerful person to bring in the reconciliation factor.”
At the request of protesters Rev Benjamin held a Sunday service outside the Cathedral.
He said: “I felt it was important for me to be there on the steps speaking to people and trying to communicate the churches concern, and I think that’s the policy that’s being persevered and is working.
“I think the Church of England has acted in a very Church of England way – speaking with many voices, being very open, being there but also being in a bit of a muddle. Because it tries to listen to everybody and get so many people together, left and right wing, it sometimes does seem to be doing u-turns.”
He spoke in favour of yesterday’s announcement by the church and the Corporation of London, which jointly own the land the protesters are occupying, that a legal bid to evict the campers was being halted.
He said: “Ultimately we have got to talk. I don’t think the protesters want to be an institution but, I do see them there for a long time.
“The church needs to be a broker for conversation and dialogue between the Occupy group and the City of London Corporation and that’s what we’re working on at the moment.”
Rev Benjamin plans to meet members of the group to discuss their thoughts about the protest and its future today.