It could lead to a ‘Devon Day’ on June 5
Calls for St Boniface to become the Patron Saint of Devon that could lead to a ‘Devon Day’ on June 5 have been backed by Devon County Council.
St. Boniface (680–754), born in Crediton, is known in Church history as the Apostle to the Germans, is regarded as “probably the greatest missionary since St. Paul” for his extensive travels and successful evangelization efforts in modern-day Germany.
Boniface left his monastery to take the Gospel to northern Europe, and was martyred there in 754. He is rightly acclaimed, ‘Apostle to the Germans’.
Devon County Council on Thursday backed a motion put forward by Cllr Nick Way to back the work of the Boniface Link Association towards adopting St Boniface as Patron Saint of Devon.
Cllr John Hart, leader of the council, said there had been letters of support from the Bishop of Plymouth, the Bishop of Exeter, the Senior Pastor at Crediton Congregational Church, Crediton Methodist Church and the Rector of the Orthodox Parish of the Holy Prophet Elias, and added: “I don’t think anyone will disagree with all of the Bishops and clergymen who have lent their support to this.”
But some councillors questioned the wisdom of adopting a patron saint whose claim to fame was converting non-Christians to Christianity.
Cllr Martin Shaw said: “I do disagree with the bishops and clergymen. While St Boniface is an interesting historical figure, it is a fundamental mistake to support the proposal to adopt him as a patron saint. If churches want to adopt him, then that is a matter for them.
“But the majority of our people don’t belong to Christian churches, other churches, or don’t attend churches. We represented a multi and non-faith community and this is sending out the wrong message, as his claim to fame is that he converted non-Christians to Christianity. I don’t think that is the message to those non-Christians to send out and don’t think we need a patron saint.”
Cllr Richard Edgell added: “This motion surprised me as I always thought St Petroc was the Patron Saint of Devon. This proposals suggests that the position is vacant. We seem to be rather lacking in our research as to what the position in and to suggest that only this one chap should be the Saint without anyone else being considered is premature.”
The leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Rob Hannaford, said that he was giving his group a free vote on the issue, but said: “He was a great humanitarian and a great European and I know whose side he would be on in the European elections. I think the points made are valid, but for historical reasons, it is important to have a patron saint as Cornwell does.”
And Cllr Alan Connett, who openly stated that he doesn’t hold any religious beliefs and stands outside the council chamber when prayers are held before the meeting said: “I am not offended by this proposals.”
Cllr Way, putting forward his motion, added: “Devon’s only native-born saint, Boniface, has been described by eminent historians as ‘The greatest Englishman of all times’ and is often referred to as the First European because of his important missionary work across a large part of the continent.
“In Creiditon, we are very proud of the connections with St Boniface and we do enjoy many visitors from Germany and Holland to see where his birthplace was. I don’t want to get into the issue of St Petroc vs St Boniface as that is something for the historians to argue about. But for those who do know the history, St Boniface was always considered the most significant saint born in Devon.
“St Petroc supposedly comes from Wales and his major shrine is in Cornwall, so St Boniface is the most significant Saint born in the county.”
Councillors voted to back the motion to support the work of the Boniface Link Association and the mechanism by which Boniface is honoured in the church calendar on June 5 and to support the work of the association in working towards the adoption of Saint Boniface as Patron Saint of Devon.
Eight councillors, from a range of political parties, voted against the motion, while a further eight abstained.