New Chichester Cathedral Guidebook
Friends and admirers of Bishop George Bell (who died in 1958) were appalled three years ago when a new guidebook to Chichester Cathedral was published.
A paragraph about the Bishop on page 37 accepted his identification (from a single accusation) as probably a paedophile, stating that the allegations, though never tested in a court of law, were ‘nonetheless plausible’.
An extra twist of the knife was the slightly unnecessary contention that ‘as Bell himself recognized, … supporting victims is always the right thing to do’.
The resulting outcry, in view of Bell’s previous blameless reputation, caused the Cathedral to withdraw the guidebook from its shop in the Cloisters, so that until recently the only guidebooks displayed were in French and German.
The 2016 revision could be sold to visitors who specifically requested it, but was kept under the counter as if it contained offensive material – as in a sense it did.
Now a newly revised version has silently appeared in the Cloisters shop. In this the ‘outing’ of Bell has been removed, to be replaced by a longer account of his friendship with the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis in 1945.
It’s reassuring to see this evident change of view at the Cathedral over the character of one of Chichester’s greatest bishops.
Is it perhaps time now to commission for a site somewhere in or near the building a statue of this remarkable man?
Hawthorn Close, Chichester