The newly appointed Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in London has defended the forced removal of the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp. The eviction of the protesters, who were camped near the cathedral, involved Christians being dragged from the cathedral's steps by police as they knelt in prayer.
The new Dean, David Ison, is currently the Dean of Bradford. His appointment was announced last week and he will formally take on his new role in May.
Questioned about the Occupy movement by the Church Times, he said that the cathedral is "not just here to be a mouthpiece for Occupy".
The paper questioned him about the eviction. He said, "It's difficult what you do when people refuse to acknowledge reality and to obey court orders. But, if people choose to make a demonstration by not obeying the order of the court, that's up to them. The Church's role is to help people recognise reality in all sorts of ways, and that includes helping Occupy recognise when it's time to move on."
His comments were criticised by members of Christianity Uncut, who organised a ring of prayer at Occupy London Stock Exchange during the eviction. They pointed out that the court order applied only to land owned by the City of London Corporation, not to the cathedral.
Many of the occupiers retreated to the cathedral steps as their tents were removed. They were surprised to be told by police that they risked arrest if they did not move.
Ison acknowledged that the Occupy movement has raised important issues. "There is a crisis of confidence in society," he said, "Where you have a lot of people who feel out of step with the economic system and, to some extent, the political system in this country".
David Ison also expressed his support for same-sex marriage. He is the most senior Church of England cleric to do so since a media storm over the issue broke out the previous week.
Christianity Uncut have revealed that five people who were removed from the steps while praying plan to submit a letter to the Cathedral Chapter asking for a clear explanation of the cathedral's role in the eviction. They are collecting supporting signatures from Church of England priests and other clergy.