By Silvia Guzzetti
THE POPE will declare St Thomas More patron saint of people in public life during a ceremony on November 5.
The Papal Bull will be signed by the Holy Father this week, almost a month before the ceremony, which will be part of the celebrations for the Jubilee of people in public life.
Five thousand parliamentarians from all over the world, belonging to one of the three monotheistic religions, will converge on Rome for the two-day event, many coming from a pilgrimage through the Middle East in the footsteps of St Paul.
The MPs will gather together on November 4 to discuss overseas debt, the dignity of the person and freedom of religion.
The following day, November 5, the Holy Father will celebrate a Mass and sessions of prayers will be held in churches, mosques and synagogues in the afternoon.
"The Holy Father has taken the trouble to travel all over the world and for once it is a part of the world which goes to him," °libretto Fumagalli Carulli, an Italian MP and chairman of the committee of parliamentarians organising the event, said.
The celebrations will also be attended by English MPs, who signed a petition to the Holy Father asking for Thomas More to be chosen as their patron saint.
"I am delighted that this is what will now happen", Lord Alton, one of the signatories of the petition said, "particularly for politicians involved in the pro-life struggle, the uncompromising way in which Thomas More was prepared to sacrifice everything, including his own life, for his beliefs is a truly inspiring model and a great example."
Paul Goggins, MP for Wythenshawe and Sate East and a Catholic said he was proud that an English saint was chosen as patron saint of politicians.
"1 think that in Thomas More we have a great example of someone with huge integrity, but who was not afraid to be at the heart of the system. That should encourage us all," he said.
Others were critical of the new honour for the Renaissance philosopher beheaded by Henry VIII on July 6, 1535.
Clifford Davies, history fellow at Wadham College, Oxford, said that the saint's modern admirers often projected their own values onto him.
"What More stood for has nothing to do with what the present generation would stand for," Clifford Davies said. "He was not at all in favour of liberty of conscience or freedom of religion, as his modern admirers think.
"He was convinced that Catholicism had the truth and people not subscribing to it should be punished and, as a result of this belief, he had many heretics executed.
"More was more a statesman trying to be consistent with his actions and his conscience than a leader starting an opposition movement against Henry VIII," Clifford Davies said. "In fact, as Lord Chancellor, he tried everything to save his life, using every leeway of the legal system."
Cambridge historian Dr Eamon Duffy, however, said Thomas More was an excellent model for Catholic politicians.
"He believed that politicians should serve ordinary people and, as Lord Chancellor, he laid huge emphasis on the law serving the people, clearing a huge backlog of cases left by his predecessors," Dr Duffy said.
"He took precautions to save his life because he thought it irresponsible not to do so. However, he did kill heretics, because he didn't believe in freedom of conscience."
Paul St John Letrnan, honorary secretary to the Thomas More Society, a Catholic society of lawyers at the Bar, said he would be happy to share the saint with politicians.
"I don't pretend we have the monopoly on Thomas More. He is a great guiding light for us and I'm sure he will be for them," he said.