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Bishop Bell’s fate matters to Catholics too

SIR – John Charmley’s fine article (Feature, February 2) on the controversy over Bishop Bell might well be noted by all concerned with the treatment of allegations made against the dead – and the long dead. It is perfectly clear that a meaningful testing of “historic” cases must call upon the skills of qualified historians. How else can we begin to judge what might be plausible, and how are we to place new material with confidence in the larger picture?

It is also important to suggest that Bishop Bell is not merely the private property of the Church of England, and someone to be disposed of by the present authorities of that denomination as they see fit. Bell should matter to Roman Catholics too. A lifelong ecumenist, he was an admiring friend of Cardinal Hinsley and intellectually they shared much common ground. They also achieved a great deal together. It was Bell who encouraged Hinsley to lead a united gathering of Catholics and Protestants in the Lord’s Prayer, at a meeting of the Sword of the Spirit movement in May 1942.

Indeed, something of all of us is very much at stake in the way we now treat this courageous and devoted Christian of the 20th century.

Andrew Chandler

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