Global Briefs for Aug. 31

Bradford Mourns its “Jesus Man”: For more than 50 years Geoffrey Brindley walked the streets of Bradford in the north of England, dressed in a brown robe and sandals, spreading good cheer with a wave and a smile. Most people knew him simply as the “Jesus Man” of Bradford.

News of his death from a stroke at 88 on Aug. 24 has met with collective sadness. People paid tribute to a “gentle spiritual man” who brightened the day by smiling and waving at strangers wherever he went.

The Rt. Rev. Toby Howarth, Bishop of Bradford, said the community would “greatly mourn his loss.” As word spread of Brindley’s death, his admirers donated £2,000 to ensure a fitting funeral at Bradford Cathedral.

Brindley’s transformation into the Jesus Man started in 1960 when the factory machinist, then 33, left his job to live in a cave in the Yorkshire Dales, where he claimed to receive a message from God. But he did not settle on a hermit’s life. Instead he set out for Bradford wearing his habit and, for the next 50 years, walked its streets come wind, snow, rain, or shine.

In the early days he found himself in trouble with police for his puritanical Christian beliefs. He was once arrested for causing a breach of the peace for preaching against the evils of gambling outside a bingo club. In the early 1960s he was arrested for protesting outside a Beatles gig at Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre.

As years went on the Jesus Man mellowed. Such was the local affection for him that 23,000 people signed a petition in 2012 asking that he become an Olympic torch-bearer. He modestly declined.

He made friends all over the city and made regular stops where his hosts would serve him a cooked dinner. People recalled stories of his cradling them as babies and singing to them. Later, inspired by the Jesus Man, they did the same for their children.

When an interviewer asked two years ago why he adopted this life, Brindley replied: “I just like walking.” And whenever it rained, he said, “I get wet.”

Prayer for Creation Care: The Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba, Metropolitan of Southern Africa, has asked Anglicans everywhere to mark Sept. 1 as an annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. Makgoba is chairman of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network. Many Orthodox churches have observed this day of prayer since 1989, and Pope Francis gave it his backing in August.

Rome Honors Martin Luther: The Vatican is reported to have given its backing to naming a square in Rome after the reformer Martin Luther. City leaders plan to designate a site overlooking the Colosseum as Piazza Martin Lutero, witnessing to the thaw in relations between the Vatican and churches that emerged from the Reformation. Luther visited Rome in 1510 and was appalled by its opulence, fueling his criticism of corruption within the Church.

Princess Diana’s Grave: Eighteen years after the death of Princess Diana of Wales (August 31), U.K. media have reported that her grave on the Althorpe estate in Northamptonshire is neglected. The site is overgrown with scrubs and foliage, but a spokesman for the estate said the natural growth of greenery “intentionally lends privacy to the Princess’s final resting place.” Despite its less than pristine condition, hundreds of visitors pay £18.50 (about $US28) to see the site.

Image of Geoffrey Brindley by Baildon Methodist Church

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