Catholic saint, praised by Jesuit magazine, named a 'worst Briton'

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A Catholic saint and martyr has been nominated as one of the nastiest villains in British history by a BBC publication, while in early November an influential Jesuit magazine praised him as a defender of church rights against the state.

St. Thomas Becket, a 12th-century archbishop of Canterbury, was among 10 "worst Britons" of the last millennium, selected by a group of British historians in the BBC compilation. The saint, whose feast is celebrated Dec. 29, was chosen by John Hudson, a professor at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, because he divided England in a way that was "unnecessary and self-indulgent."

"He was a founder of gesture politics with the most acute of eyes for what would now be called the photo opportunity," said Hudson, a specialist in early medieval English and French history.

"He was also greedy," he said in BBC History magazine Dec. 27. "Those who share my prejudice against Becket may consider his assassination in Canterbury Cathedral Dec. 29, 1170, a fittingly grisly end."

BBC History magazine compiled the list after asking 10 historians to name their pick for "worst Briton."

Yet, the influential Jesuit magazine, La Civilta Cattolica, which is reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State prior to publication, made mention of the 12th century saint in commenting last month on possible sainthood cause of Archbishop Oscar A. Romero of San Salvador.

La Civilta Cattolica said that almost immediately after Archbishop Romero was murdered in 1980, people started comparing him to St. Thomas, the English archbishop martyred in 1170.

"Thomas was killed for defending the legitimate rights of the church, which the king of England wanted to transform into an instrument of his own power, while Msgr. Romero was killed for having defended – in the name of the faith – the rights of man, which the church today proclaims as its 'first and fundamental path,'" the magazine said.

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