Perspective: It's the More the Merrier as Far as the Pope and Saints Go

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Upton

It's said by those who count up these sort of things that the present pope has created more saints than all of his predecessors put together. In addition to these appointments, John-Paul II is also looking round for a new batch of patron saints as well, to reflect the changing nature of life in the new millennium.

In June, the search began for a patron saint of the Internet, with Isidore of Seville, the medieval encyclopaedist, as the current favourite. Instead of 'Ask Jeeves' we may have a search engine called 'Ask Isidore'. E-mails in Latin and gothic font, please.

On November 5, an Englishman got in on the act. Thomas More was nominated by the pope as 'a model and intercessor for all those who consider their political commitment as a choice for life'. In short, a patron saint of politicians. Most people's acquaintance with More begins and ends with Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons, so I'd better whip through the great man's life.

Born in London in 1478, Thomas More followed the tried and trusted road of political highfliers. He went to Oxford and then to the Inns of Court to train as a lawyer and moved from there to the House of Commons.

Thomas Wolsey introduced him to court and when Wolsey fell from grace in 1529, More (with some reluctance) replaced his old mentor as Chancellor of England, the highest political office in the land. But it was Thomas's misfortune to be a fervent Catholic just at the moment that the King of England was about to make such a commitment difficult, if not impossible, to maintain.

Unable to accept Henry VIII as supreme head of the English Church, More first resigned the chancellorship and then went to prison. In July 1535, with More still sticking to his principles, Henry had him executed, the ex-chancellor's status allowing him the relative luxury of the executioner's axe, rather than something more unpleasant involving basic anatomy. It was in 1935, on the 400th anniversary of his death, that Thomas was canonised. No doubt his steadfast belief that the pope was the one and only head of the church helped his case in the Vatican. …