THE DEAN of Sheffield Cathedral has called on anti-capitalist protesters camped outside the building to move on - and said they were ‘taking advantage of the good nature of the Church of England’.
Very Rev Peter Bradley, Dean of Sheffield, told The Star the Occupy Sheffield camp had ‘made its point’ and used his sermon yesterday to appeal to them to leave.
He said the camp’s presence was ‘severely affecting the ministry of the church’, taking up his time and that of other church officials who have had to meet protesters, deal with media enquiries and resolve health and safety issues.
Rev Bradley said the protesters were also deterring groups from renting space for events. The money is vital for the cathedral’s maintenance and running costs and funds the Archer Project which helps Sheffield’s homeless.
During the Eucharist service he was interrupted by an angry female protester, who swore at the clergy and accused them of ‘contradicting themselves’.
Mr Bradley told the congregation: “I call on the protest to move on so the Cathedral can be free to work with our whole community. The Occupy Sheffield protest has made its point. It is time for the protest to end.”
The Occupy movement set up a camp in Sheffield in November after similar protests on Wall Street, New York, and outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London, to protest against the ‘greed’ of bankers and Government austerity measures.
Tom Redfern, protest spokesman, said members wanted to be ‘good neighbours’ and would ‘accommodate the cathedral wherever possible’ adding he understood the Dean’s concerns but the issue ‘wasn’t going to be solved overnight’.
He also suggested protesters might move to an empty building in the city to continue their campaign.
Rev Bradley continued: “We are not clear why a protest about banking and the Government is taking up the time of the cathedral when, for the last 20 years, we have tried to provide a voice for vulnerable people through the Archer Project.
“I have every reason to suppose the protesters took to the site because they believed we would be unlikely to take court action against them. “The protest is taking advantage of the good nature of the Church of England.”
Mr Bradley said he had repeatedly urged protesters to leave - although he told them legal action was not planned.
He said: “The Cathedral is separate from the main part of the Church of England and we do not have access to their legal department. Like any charity we don’t seek legal confrontation but we would appeal to the protesters to go.”
After the sermon, churchgoers told The Star they supported the Dean’s stance.
Ashleigh Lamming, 22, who sings in the cathedral choir, said two of the last three services she had attended were interrupted by protesters.
“I’m sympathetic to the cause but they let themselves down,” said Ashleigh, who lives in Sheffield city centre.
“They probably have made their point and it’s right for the cathedral to say they should move on. It isn’t fair when they interrupt services.”
A 67-year-old churchgoer from Totley, who didn’t want to be named, said: “It’s very difficult but there comes a time when sometimes you’ve got to explain the reasons and ask them to move on.”
Another member of the congregation, a 73-year-old man, said: “I don’t understand what they’re trying to prove, I can’t see the point of it.”
He added the protesters were ‘alienating’ themselves by interrupting services, adding: “I don’t think they do themselves any favours - clearly they’ve got no control.”
A fellow parishioner said the protesters were leaving the cathedral forecourt in a ‘terrible state’.
“If they want respect they should give it,” she said.