Archbishop Welcomes Calls To Make St George's Day A Public Holiday
Tuesday 5th April 2011The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has welcomed calls made in the House of Commons today to make St George's Day a national holiday.
The Archbishop said:
"I continue to back calls for a public holiday to mark St George's Day. I am delighted that this issue is being raised in the House of Commons – and I hope that the Government will consider giving everyone in England a day off to celebrate this wonderful Patron Saint!
"As someone who is inspired by St George's refusal to renounce his discipleship of Jesus Christ, I have long campaigned for us to have a special holiday where we can celebrate our patron saint and all that is great about our wonderful nation.
"As the Second Church Estates Commissioner (Tony Baldry) recognises, this year is a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a unique double celebration. Because 23rd April is Holy Saturday, St George's Day moves to 2nd May in the Church Calendar. This means we get another chance to wave our St George flags, sing songs and drink a pint of English ale!
"A recent poll by Premier Christian Media, reveals that 64% of people in the UK are in favour of St. Georges Day being a Bank Holiday – Christians were particularly positive with 71% backing the Public Holiday. Let us all get behind the campaign to pay a full and proper tribute to our patron saint."
His comments followed Parliamentary Questions to the Second Church Estates Commissioner on the subject.
An extract from Questions to the Second Church Estates Commissioner in the House of Commons follows:
9. Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): What plans the Church of England has to mark St George's day.
Tony Baldry : The Church of England is delighted to have a once-in-a-century opportunity to celebrate the patron saint of England on two occasions this year. The Church of England, along with other Christian denominations, will be officially celebrating St George's day on 2 May. The reason for the shift in date this year is that Easter is late, Easter Sunday falling the day immediately after St George's day, on 23 April. To celebrate St George's day on Holy Saturday would not be appropriate because Holy Saturday is the traditional time of reflection and contemplation for Christians before the celebrations of Easter Sunday. The Archbishop of York has been calling for all churches and Government buildings to fly the St George cross on their flagpoles on both 23 April and 2 May. He has written to all Departments asking them to observe both 23 April and 2 May, to ensure that we have a double celebration this year.
Mr Nuttall: I thank my hon. Friend for that informative answer. Will the Church Commissioners be supporting the private Member's Bill tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), which would have the effect of designating St George's day, or the nearest working day to it, a national public holiday?
Tony Baldry: In responding to my hon. Friend, I can do no better than to quote the Archbishop of York, who has said:
"As someone who loves St George, I have long campaigned for us to have a special holiday where we can celebrate our patron saint and all that is great about our wonderful nation. There is so much to love about England. Why can't we put aside one day a year where we can wave our English flag of St George, sing songs about our proud history and maybe even drink a pint of English real ale with our friends."
Richard Graham: I am of course delighted that our noble cathedral continues to lead the way in celebrating St George's day, and I hope that other cathedrals and churches will follow Gloucester cathedral's example. In Scotland, St Andrew's day has been marked by a public holiday since 2006. Many of us feel that St George's day is at least as important a day in England. Indeed, Shakespeare referred to
"Our ancient word of courage".
If the Church were to endorse the adoption of St George's day as a public holiday, would my hon. Friend join me in asking the Backbench Business Committee for an opportunity to debate the matter on the Floor of the House?
Tony Baldry: My hon. Friend makes a good point. It is worth recalling that St George's day was declared a public holiday as long ago as 1222. The House will of course have an opportunity to support the private Member's Bill tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), who represents the constituency in which Shakespeare was born and died on St George's day. For all those reasons, it is a good idea to have a public holiday to celebrate St George.