Bishop criticises Dean of Southwark for holding a memorial service for the cathedral’s cat

NEWS AND VIEWS: Doorkins Magnificat was Southwark Cathedral’s cat and she passed away on September 30 of liver failure. She started living at the cathedral in 2013. She had been living around nearby Borough Market feeding off food provided by the traders. When she entered the cathedral, she was welcomed by the head verger Paul Timms. She made the cathedral her home and added to it. In the words of the Dean of Southwark, The Very Reverend Andrew Nunn, she “brought domestic to a place”. What I believe he means is that she was a stray cat and therefore somewhat undomesticated but her presence at the cathedral made it welcoming and homely, like a ‘domestic scene’.

Doorkins Magnificat
Doorkins Magnificat. Photo: Southwark Cathedral.

Because Doorkins Magnificat contributed so much to the cathedral and was so much part of it the Dean decided to have a memorial service to her. The Bishop of Burnley, Philip North, criticised the cathedral for having the memorial service and considered it “grossly insensitive” because, for international readers, Burnley is in the north of England where there is a second lockdown against the coronavirus pandemic. The Bishop of Burnely is saying if they are locked down up north it is insensitive of the Dean in Southwark (which is in London) to have a gathering of 30 people to remember Doorkins Magnificat’s life. Of course, the service must have been within the current rules regarding social distancing.

The Very Reverend Andrew Nunn - Dean of Southwark
The Very Reverend Andrew Nunn – Dean of Southwark. Photo: the cathedral.
Doorkins Magnificat
Doorkins Magnificat. Photo: the cathedral

I feel fairly confident in saying that most people would disagree with the Bishop of Burnley and some might argue that he, himself, is being insensitive for criticising the Dean of Southwark for holding the service. I would suggest too that 90% of people, or more, reading the story would support the Dean.

Doorkins Magnificat truly added something to the cathedral. This is quite clear from the reports. Rev Nunn said that the cathedral’s cat, “did more to bring people to this place that I will ever do”. Clearly the public came in to see the beautiful cathedral and the cat. The Dean is not particularly a cat person, he said. But he appears to have become one during her stay at the cathedral. He said that she “chose us and stayed, changed our lives and enhanced our mission and ministry”.

Bishop of Burnley, Phillip North
Bishop of Burnley, Phillip North. Photo in public domain.

The head verger Paul Timms said that the challenge was not arguing the reason for having the memorial service but why it should be that the church can seem to be unwelcoming to people who don’t see “themselves reflected in our life”. He wants the church to be welcoming to people as the church welcomed Doorkins Magnificat.

And this is really such a major and important point. Churches including cathedrals should welcome people, all people of all religions and races. They should be alive, bustling and full of activity and love. They shouldn’t be stale, dusty places which give the impression that passers-by are unwelcome and to be shunned.

Paul Timms said:

Why should it take a stray, feral and at times unfriendly cat to bring the domestic to a place that couldn’t domesticate her.

He is saying that Doorkins Magnificat made the cathedral friendly, warm and welcoming when the humans couldn’t or struggled to do so. And for that simple reason she was a treasure and was rightly remembered in a memorial service despite it taking place during the corona virus pandemic.

Doorkins Magnificat passed away in Paul Timm’s arms with the familiar sound of his voice and him for company. Well done to Mr Timms. Great guy who did the right thing. Jackson Galaxy would be proud of you!

P.S. A gargole was made of her! Well it is called a “corbel”:

Doorkins Magnificat's corbel
Doorkins Magnificat’s corbel. Photo: Southwardk Cathedral.

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