Letter: A prayer for understanding

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GERALD KAUFMAN'S excellent profile of Alistair Cooke ("The voice of liberal America", 15 November) quotes him as saying "I try to write a form of English which can be, as the Bible says, 'understanded of the people'".

Quite right too, except that it is not in the Bible. It is a part of Article XXIV of the 39 Articles of Religion in the Book of Common Prayer, which reads: "It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have a publick Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understanded of the people."

Those sentiments may be explained by the Articles having been "agreed upon by the archbishops and bishops ... and the whole clergy, in ... 1562". Queen Elizabeth's Church of England was anxious not to use Latin, as had been used by Queen Mary's Catholic Church. The declaration by King James I, prefacing those Articles, clearly says "Me too".

Clergy should take note, as should journalists.


Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk