Church picks candidates for not-quite-sainthood

Andrew Brown at the General Synod in York says that some surprising figures are to be given their own saints' days
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The Independent Online
Heaven will be fitted with William Morris wallpaper if the Church of England has its way. The pioneer of the arts and crafts movement is one of a remarkably comprehensive list of potential saints proposed by the church's General Synod for inclusion in the next edition of the Alternative Service Book.

In keeping with the Anglican distaste for definitive pronouncements, these people will not be formally declared saints, but they will be put in the calendar of saints for commemoration on particular days.

Other candidates for this not-quite-sainthood include Martin Luther, who led the Reformation, balanced by Ignatius Loyola, who founded the Jesuits and might be said to have started the Counter-Reformation. The literary arts are represented by John Donne, Samuel Johnson, CS Lewis, and his friend Charles Williams (but not their close friend the devout Catholic JRR Tolkien).

There is one new Pope on the list, John XXIII, who summoned the second Vatican Council, and several other Roman Catholics, among them Cardinal Newman, who started life as an Anglican and who is also undergoing the process of beautification in Rome, and Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, shot at his altar in 1980. George Fox, founder of the Quakers, is included, and Florence Nightingale, and William and Catherine Booth, founders of the Salvation Army.

Some Synod members objected to the bar being set too low. The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Eric Kemp, said: "The report may lead us to accept a comfortable, moderate standard of holiness, [when] we should demand outstanding examples of heroic sanctity."

Canon Michael Saward objected to the inclusion on the list of Michael Ramsay, Archbishop of Canterbury until 1976, who died in 1988. Canon Saward said there was no doubt about the sanctity of Archbishop Ramsay: "Once in the West Indies, Michael Ramsay walked into a plate-glass door; stopped, shook his head, and walked straight back into it." But, he argued, seven years was far too short a time in which to make a decision.

However, most of the voices raised were in favour of adding to the list of saints. Prebendary Paul Avis of Exeter argued for the inclusion of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet and theologian.

In keeping with the ecumenical mood Mgr William Steele, the Roman Catholic observer to the Synod, said that he prayed that the martyrs of both sides of the Reformation would intercede for the Church. It was the first time an ecumenical observer had been allowed to speak at the Synod. "I hope that we Roman Catholics will find some ways to use the riches of this calendar in our public prayer," he said.

The list now goes to the Synod's revision committee for consideration. Members of the public who wish to add to it should write to their local bishop.

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