London: The Dean of St Paul`s Cathedral in London on Monday became the second high-profile clergy member to step down amid mounting controversy over anti-capitalist protests on the church`s grounds.
Graeme Knowles said that as criticism of the cathedral has mounted in the press and in public opinion, his position has become untenable.
His resignation follows that last week of Giles Fraser, a senior St Paul`s Cathedral priest who had welcomed the anti-capitalist demonstrators to camp outside the landmark. He said he resigned because he feared moves to evict the protesters could end in violence.
Senior clergy have been divided over how to handle the scores of tents, inspired by New York`s Occupy Wall Street movement, that are set up outside the iconic cathedral near the River Thames in central London — an issue protesters highlighted in their response to Knowles` resignation.
Protesters said on the Occupy London website that while the management of St Paul`s is "obviously deeply divided" over the protests, the movement has never called for any "scalps" from the clergy.
"Our cause has never been directed at the staff of the Cathedral," the group said. It called for an "open and transparent dialogue" between demonstrators and those urging campers to move.
Knowles, 60, called the past two weeks a "testing time" and said his decision to step down did not come easily.
"Since the arrival of the protesters` camp outside the cathedral, we have all been put under a great deal of strain and have faced what would appear to be some insurmountable issues," he said in a statement. "I hope and pray that under new leadership these issues might continue to be addressed and that there might be a swift and peaceful resolution."
St Paul`s officials said Knowles made his decision known on Sunday night and has already removed himself from Cathedral operations.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams called Knowles` decision to step down "very sad news" in the wake of Fraser`s earlier resignation.