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The television version of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall is the latest account to challenge St Thomas More’s reputation as a courageous defender of the rights of conscience. Was he, in truth, a liberal icon, a religious fanatic or something in between?
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James Kelly draws attention to the number of bishops drawn from religious orders (Letters, May 15). Orthodox bishops have to be monks. Since their priests are allowed only one marriage, widowed priests can take monastic vows – and so are eligible to become bishops.
In eastern Slovakia, where the Orthodox Church of the relatively impoverished Ruthenian minority has no real monastic tradition – and orders were dissolved under communism – seminary lecturer Marian Nadzham remarked to me, “It is tragic; we have to wait for priests to be widowed.”
In Bulgaria, the elderly Sofia Academy lecturer Alexander Gospodinov, commented, “It is interesting; some of our best bishops have been widowers.” Then, in Churches subject to communist rule and KGB recruitment methods, some hierarchs have been known to sport “morganatic wives.”
One such was a long term Soviet-era bishop, now a senior cleric in the Kiev Patriarchate, who a few years ago was reported to be grieving for his deceased lady.
Janice Broun, Alness, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland