Funeral fray

The Church of England - - ENGLAND ON SUNDAY -

Th­ese un­gen­er­ous at­ti­tudes to­wards Lady Thatcher are to be found in the cam­paign ques­tion­ing whether the state should pay her funeral costs. The Bishop of Gran­tham, Tim El­lis, en­tered the fray on this point at the week­end.

He told the BBC, “I think that in a con­text where there is man­i­festly great ill-feel­ing about her ten­ure and about her legacy, to then ac­tu­ally have a sit­u­a­tion where we seem to be ex­pect­ing the na­tion to glo­rify that with a £10 mil­lion funeral ... I think any sen­si­ble per­son would say that that is ask­ing for trou­ble.”

He added, “It plays into the hands of those more ex­treme peo­ple who will use the funeral as an op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote cer­tain po­lit­i­cal views.”

Apart from the fact that it is pre­sump­tu­ous for Bishop El­lis to think that his own pref­er­ences should over­ride those of fam­ily and friends, this is again to make Lady Thatcher solely re­spon­si­ble for re­ac­tions to her death.

Mar­garet Thatcher’s of­fi­cial bi­og­ra­pher, Charles Moore, re­minded us this week that pub­lic as­pects of all Prime Min­is­ter’s fu­ner­als have al­ways been paid for by the State (‘Mar­garet Thatch- er: Her funeral is not a po­lit­i­cal act, but a moment to wish for peace’, Tele­graph, 12 April 2013).

He writes: “There will be no po­lit­i­cal eu­logy. It is a pity that the funeral op­er­a­tion was co­de­named True Blue: the ser­vice con­cen­trates solely on the true God, and His ser­vant now leav­ing this life.”

This is the right bal­ance to strike in the midst of a fran­tic po­lit­i­cal de­bate. This is not to agree with all her poli­cies but to at­tend in­stead to the last pas­toral rite of a woman of faith who, in the econ­omy of God, is nei­ther the great­est nor the first, but like all of us a dis­ci­ple and a pil­grim.

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