Leading article: Wings of glory

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The Independent Online

"Not angles, but angels," so Pope Gregory I is supposed to have responded, on first seeing fair-haired slave boys in an Italian market. From the 590s to 2010 is more than 1,400 years, but the Angles' descendants, it seems, still profess a special relationship with these celestial beings. Even in this secular and materialistic age, almost half of Britons sampled say they either believe in angels or are not sure, while almost one in three believe they have a guardian angel watching over them. The preponderance is greatest in the ancestral land of the Angles – eastern England. Witness the Angel of the North.

Leave aside that the survey was commissioned by the Bible Society and Christian Research, and so might betray a degree of partiality, we would invite the remaining sceptics to suspend their disbelief for the festive season and consider the manifold benefits brought to us by the angelic hosts. There is their singing to be sure, and the beating of their wings – pleasing sounds that drown out the clamour of modern life.

There is the intimation of the divine, and the benevolent protection an angel affords against an uncertain world. As for all those passengers unhappily stranded at airports around the country, a guardian angel – wings and all – is exactly what everyone needs.