The Synod of Bishops of the Church of Sanctaria today announced they had chosen the Archbishop of Haven, Archbishop Geoffrey Mandleson, as their new Patriarch. Mandleson, who will be translated to the Metropolitan See of Sanctus immediately, succeeds the late Simon XVI, who died in July. It was announced shortly after Mandleson’s selection that he will be taking Luke as his Patriarchal name, becoming the sixth of that name to be Archbishop of Sanctus.

The newly designated Luke VI takes charge of a Church that has seen a sharp decline in both congregation, and amongst its own clerics, over the tenure of the past three Patriarchs. Criticism of the Church’s teachings on same-sex marriage and abortion, both of which are legal in the Divine Republic, have been contributing factors to the decline of the Church. However chief among the Church’s problems is its current attitude to women – women are generally treated as second class citizens, according to critics, within the institution, and that it is exempt from sexual discrimination prohibition legislation is “concerning”, according to Ann Ramirez, Secretary for Equality & Minority Affairs. She later confirmed she would be looking into ending religious exemptions from equality legislation.

With the President, Prime Minister, and half the cabinet all women, and all having expressed negative opinions about the status of women in the Church of Sanctaria – officially still the nation’s state Church – the Synod of Bishops responded in a way today by choosing Archbishop Mandleson, generally considered to be even more of a hardliner than his predecessor Simon XVI; the Church, now a private institution, will not kowtow to the State.

Luke VI’s tenure will likely cause a new series of rifts between the Church and the State, the biggest since the two separated in 1974. No longer running the country, and no longer involved in any way with public life, the Church is sliding into irrelevance, and like any dying animal, is lashing out viciously to prevent further harm. The position of Patriarch used to mean one was the Emperor of an expansive theocratic Empire, all under the Sanctarian banner; now it signals the chief executive of a failing organisation, trying desperately to glean back some of the power and prestige the office held prior to 1974.

At the age of 77, Luke VI will likely not serve as Patriarch for nearly as long as his predecessor, but this tenure will likely be just as tempestuous.

Edward Allens
Religion Correspondent