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St Chad's rector, Jill Warren
"St Chad was more concerned with unity ... than his own self-aggrandisement."
 real 28k

Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 13:41 GMT
Website swamped by 'chad' fanatics
Fallen chads
Fallen chads: St Chad would have disapproved
Unlike Al Gore and George W Bush, St Chad's conduct during a disputed election helped him on his way to sainthood.

Now, the website of his parish church in England is being inundated by Americans interested in a less holy chad, the bits of paper punched out of American ballots.

The Washington Times joked that with the current obsession with dimpled and pregnant chads in Florida's recounting process, St Chad would made an excellent patron saint of disputed elections.

The 7th century saint's life was an example to those involved in the US presidential election.

St Chad's website
The site now has about 300 visitors daily
The Northumbrian cleric stepped down as bishop of the region in 669 after his ordination was challenged by a new Archbishop of Canterbury.

Chad had been chosen by the king of Northumbria after the previous candidate failed to return from his ordination in France.

But with no courts to resort to, Chad's humility was recognised by the archbishop and he was eventually installed as the first bishop of Lichfield, now in Staffordshire.

Numbers rise

Since the story was printed in American papers, US internet users have been following links on politics and news websites and arriving at the website for the Lichfield church.

Numbers visiting the site have increased from four a day to more than 300.

But the site has nothing suitable for election fanatics, only a history of the church and its saint and a welcome to pilgrims from Guildford.

Life of St Chad
620s: Born in Northumbria
664: Becomes abbot of Lastingham, Yorkshire
665: Chosen as bishop of Northumbria after first candidate fails to return from France
669: Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus, challenges Chad's ordination and he steps down
Late 669: Made bishop of Lichfield
672: Dies after premonition
American visitors have used the site's guestbook to vent their frustration at the absence of saintly virtues from the recent presidential election.

Amy McFadden, of New York City, wrote: "I pray our squabbling leaders will take to heart the virtuous and thoughtful example of good St Chad."

Patty O'Shaunessy, of Hinsdale, Illinois, declared: "After all of the turmoil we have been put through for the past few weeks in the United States, it was wonderful to read the story of St Chad.

"As a Catholic I shouldn't have to be reminded that God moves in mysterious ways - now if only Mr Gore would pay attention."

'Scraping the barrel'

Chad Walker, of Georgia, cursed his topical name and said: "Being named Chad and well aware of the current importance of bits of paper called chads I have been embarrassed by it all.

"Your website has restored some dignity to my name for me - St Chad was a great man of God and I am proud to bear his name."

The origins of the word are unclear, although Americans believe it may have been derived from the Chadless Keypunch, named after its US inventor, which punched small U-shapes in cards.

But the word first appeared during the early days of telegraphy and computing, and may have come from the Scottish word for gravel or riverbed stones.

St Chad's rector, Jill Warren, said: "We are delighted. Surfers, scraping the barrel for stories on chads, have hit our site and this is a new way of reaching people."

Unholy chads
Hanging: largely detached from ballot
Swinging: Half detached
Dimpled: Indented ballot
Pregnant: Bulge on ballot
Parishioner and site designer Stephen Smith welcomed the new interest in the church.

Speaking to BBC News Online, he said: "God certainly moves in mysterious ways. We are very pleased but surprised by the way it has come about."

And he suggested the protagonists from the American presidential elections could do worse than follow the example of St Chad.

Mr Smith said: "St Chad is a good example of humility. He humbly stepped down from being bishop and only a few months later he was rewarded by being made bishop of Lichfield."

The church which was started in the 12th century is currently in the throes of a 100,000 repair appeal.

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See also:

05 Dec 00 | Americas
Gore pins hopes on Florida court
28 Nov 00 | Americas
Bush's cabinet in waiting
04 Dec 00 | Americas
Florida's key players
23 Nov 00 | C-D
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