Murray Wardrop, Telegraph (London), May 3, 2011
Dr John Sentamu, who has campaigned for the English patron saint’s day to be made a public holiday, said people should mark the occasion with patriotic songs and real ale.
Although his efforts have so far been in vain, a diary clash with Holy Week saw the archbishop’s prayers answered after the Church of England delayed celebrations until yesterday.
Dr Sentamu said the English should not shy away from displays of patriotism, claiming it is only wrong if it becomes aggressive.
Leading a public sing-a-long of anthems including Rule Britannia and Land Of Hope And Glory in York yesterday, he said: “There is so much to love about England.
“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.
“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?”
He added: “Patriotism is only wrong if you are not doing it in the name of the Crown and if you are doing it simply to run down another group.”
The Church of England and the Catholic Church in England moved their St George’s Day celebrations by more than a week because the official date, April 23, this year landed on Holy Saturday–a day of suspense between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
York Minster yesterday honoured the patron saint by playing patriotic English songs on the cathedral’s carillon bells.
More than 100 people joined the archbishop outside the cathedral for the celebration and to listen to Dr John Ridgeway-Wood, one of Britain’s leading carillonneurs, ringing out the stirring anthems.
Speaking afterwards, Dr Sentamu said: “I think it is important that the Church pays St George his full dues with the sort of celebration not possible during Holy Week.”
Last month, the archbishop renewed calls for a St George’s day Bank Holiday by writing to the Government.
Aside from his legendary status as a dragon-slayer, St George was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier from Syria Palaestina and a priest in the Guard of Diocletian, who is said to have been one of the most bloodthirsty of the Roman emperors.
He was venerated as a Christian martyr because he refused to renounce his faith in God and as a follower of Christ at a time when Christians were killed for their beliefs.
Sixty three per cent of people are in favour of celebrating St George’s Day with a public holiday, a survey by ComRes has found.