The dean of St Paul's Cathedral in London has resigned, saying his position had become untenable.
The Rt Rev Graeme Knowles said the past fortnight had been a testing time.
It follows weeks of protests outside the cathedral by
anti-capitalist protesters, which led to the building being closed for
The news comes as the City of London authorities prepare to
order protesters outside St Paul's to remove their tents and equipment
within 48 hours.
Dean Knowles, who occupied the most senior decision-making
position at the cathedral, said he was stepping down "with great
In a statement,
he said: "It has become increasingly clear to me that, as criticism of
the cathedral has mounted in the press, media and in public opinion, my
position as dean of St Paul's was becoming untenable.
"In order to give the opportunity for a fresh approach to the
complex and vital questions facing St Paul's, I have thought it best to
stand down as dean, to allow new leadership to be exercised."
It follows last week's resignation of Dr Giles Fraser, who had been sympathetic to the activists.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said he was sad to hear the news of Dean Knowles' resignation.
One protester said: "I don't feel that I caused the resignation, that was the dean's decision"
"The events of the last couple of weeks have shown very clearly
how decisions made in good faith by good people under unusual pressure
can have utterly unforeseen and unwelcome consequences, and the clergy
of St Paul's deserve our understanding in these circumstances," he said.
He added that the wider issues raised by the protesters "remain very much on the table".
Dr Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, said he was sad to
hear the dean's decision, adding that he had "acted honourably in a
very difficult situation".
In a statement responding to the resignation, Occupy London
described the management of St Paul's Cathedral as "deeply divided" over
its response to the protests.
"But our cause has never been directed at the staff of the cathedral," the statement added.
The statement went on to urge an "open and transparent dialogue" involving all parties.
The notices to remove tents and equipment from around St
Paul's follows a decision by the City of London Corporation last week to
go ahead with court action to clear the area.
The corporation has insisted that the protesters themselves are not being asked to leave the area.
A spokesperson for the corporation confirmed that a letter would be served to protesters.
There are more than 200 tents around St Paul's Cathedral
Earlier, it had said the letter would be served on Monday afternoon, but a spokesman said it had been "delayed in drafting".
A spokesperson said if the protesters did not comply the case would go to court.
The Planning and Transportation Committee of the corporation
last week voted to go ahead with proceedings to remove the encampment on
the grounds that it constitutes an unreasonable use of the highway.
Ronan McNern, a supporter of the Occupy London Stock Exchange
protest, said it would be up to the general assembly of the protesters
how they responded to the notice.
He said: "Every time that the occupiers have been challenged,
they have remained calm. We have a just cause and there is absolutely
no reason why we would be intimidated. We trust in the people."