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St. Paul’s Cathedral Dean Knowles Quits on Protest Criticism

The Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Graeme Knowles, became the second senior cleric at the City of London’s most famous church to quit following criticism over the handling of protesters camped outside.

“The past fortnight has been a testing time for the Chapter and for me personally,” Knowles, who is responsible for the running of the cathedral, said in a statement on the church’s website today. “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.”

The decision of Knowles to offer his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II follows the Oct. 27 resignation of Giles Fraser as Canon Chancellor on concern that force might be used to evict anti-capitalism protesters. The cathedral was closed for six days by clergy concerned about the camp, the first time it had shut since World War II.

The crisis is the latest to envelop the Church of England since the dispute over gay priests and the ordination of women bishops, which have both threatened for several years to cause a split among the 85 million members of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church of England, said Knowles’s resignation was very sad.

“The events of the last couple of weeks have shown very clearly how decisions made in good faith by good people under unusual pressure can have utterly unforeseen and unwelcome consequences,” Williams said in a statement. “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.”

More than 200 tents have been set up outside the cathedral, prompting its closure on health and safety grounds.

The planning and transportation committee of the City of London Corporation voted Oct. 28 to go ahead with legal proceedings to clear the area on the grounds the campsite is interfering with public highways.

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