Letter: The sacred and the commercial

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The Independent Online
Sir: Following the correspondence in your paper (Letters, 7 and 11 August), I would like to state that the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's are naturally saddened and disturbed when visitors leave the cathedral with a sense of disappointment at what they take to be commercialism.

One of our major problems is trying to maintain the witness of a holy place and, at the same time, allow sightseers access to one of the greatest religious buildings in the world.

Liturgical worship is offered up at St Paul's four times every day. It would not be possible, without closing the building entirely, to deny access to the thousands of visitors and tourists who come daily to London and wish to see this great building - about two million each year.

Consequently, we have to strike a balance. We may not yet have this balance right, but we are at least trying. When we are able to move the commercial activities of the shops into the crypt, as we plan to do, the situation is bound to be eased.

Our other dilemma is that of finance. Just over a year ago we had a deficit of about pounds 600,000. Unlike French cathedrals and other continental churches, English cathedrals are not maintained by the state. We therefore felt it right to make a charge for sightseeing. I would stress, however, that there is no charge whatsoever for anyone attending who wishes to worship, either publicly or privately.

We believe the mission of St Paul's is to proclaim the Christian gospel according to the practices and traditions of the Church of England, and in an environment of excellence and beauty, to uplift the minds of men, women and children to the things of the spirit. That we do not always succeed is a matter of real sadness to us. The fact that, on average, more than 2,000 people worship regularly with us on Sundays, and possibly as many as 200 at Evensong on weekdays, encourages us to hope that we are at least in part fulfilling our purpose.

Yours sincerely,

T. ERIC EVANS

Dean

St Paul's Cathedral

London, EC4

13 August

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