I don’t know why a church should turn down Derek Griffiths’ offer to display a flag for St George’s Day, and am reluctant to comment based on a guess. However I did find his letter interesting. Having just observed the commemoration on its 75th occurrence in my lifetime, my curiosity was piqued.
First, St George and his iconography and symbolism have nothing to do with being British. He’s the patron saint of England, among other places, but not of any other country in the United Kingdom.
There are three basic difficulties about St George. One is that virtually nothing is known about him, although he has been venerated as a martyr from an early date. This makes life a bit tricky for any hapless cleric required to preach on his day. The next is that he has nothing to do with England – or most of the other places which hold him in special veneration, such as Genoa, as recently mentioned by Vittorio Colabella in an interesting letter. This does provide a handle for those wishing to make the controversial point that many of those wishing to appropriate the saint’s symbolism for purposes of nationalism would probably not welcome him if he rocked up from what’s now Turkey.
The third is that his day is an utter nightmare in the calendar. According to both Anglican and Roman Catholic usage, he is moved in England, and omitted in the other UK countries, if his day falls on a Sunday, or in any year when Easter falls on or after April 16. I was curious enough to work it out: of the 75 St George’s days in my lifetime, no less than 26 have had to be moved when April 23 has fallen into one or both of those categories, including at least one when it was Easter Day. However, I see no desire to replace St George with another patron.
Alan Harrison, Walsall
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