The Third Leader: Unholy rows

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The Independent Online

Religion can be a consolation, but as many of the faithful could bear witness, from founders to followers unfortunate enough to have been professing the wrong one at the wrong time, it is not without its problems.

In Spain, for example, we report, there is something of a fuss going on over some Carmelite nuns who have been accused of stealing three statues from a church in Grajal de Campos and installing them in their new convent in Toledo. The nuns claim ownership, but many of the townsfolk disagree, and have taken a coach to Toledo to protest outside the new convent, holding up a banner making a clever play on holiness: "Termites are more trustworthy than Carmelites!"

In India, meanwhile, an initially uplifting story has turned sour: Pamela, an unemployed south London transsexual, seemed to have found contentment at a temple in Gujurat, saying "I don't miss anything about Tooting"; but now the hijras, or eunuchs, there claim she is monopolising donations.

And it's little better in Australia, where a man who discovered a weeping statue of the Virgin Mary in Perth has been ordered by the local parish priest to go back to Brisbane. The statue, apparently, has not wept since his departure.

Ah, well: deep waters. My thoughts turn to a survey showing that the happiest workers in Britain are hairdressers. A straightforward task, giving the pleasure of personal attention and improved appearance, conducted with cheery conversation about holiday plans, the weather and sporting fixtures. But never once, in my experience, religion. Something to contemplate during the shampooing, I should have said.

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