St Paul's Cathedral authorities said Tuesday they will not try to evict protesters camped outside the building, while local municipal authority said it was reconsidering legal moves to force the closure of the protest camp.
Official eviction notices were due to have been served Monday afternoon on anti-capitalist demonstrators camped outside St Paul's Cathedral by the municipal authority the City of London Corporation (CLC).
However, officials were engaged in lengthy debate Tuesday over whether the eviction plan should be scrapped, after the news broke the Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral, its governing body, had ditched its plans to start legal eviction proceedings.
The Rt Rev Michael Colclough, Canon Pastor of St Paul's and a Chapter member, said, "The Chapter is unanimous in its desire to engage constructively with the protest and the serious issues that have been raised, without the threat of legal action hanging over us. Legal concerns have been at the forefront in recent weeks but now is the time for the moral, the spiritual and the theological to come to the fore."
The about-face by the church comes only hours after British home secretary Theresa May threw the government's weight behind clearing the protest camp from St Paul's.
"What I want to see is the church authorities and the Corporation of London and the police working together to ensure that the protesters can be moved as soon as possible," she said.
She was backing earlier calls by prime minister David Cameron for the protesters to quit the camp.
St Paul's change of heart marks a triumph for the protesters and moves the focus from legal action to the morality and behavior of Britain's finance and banking sector.
The Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, said, "The alarm bells are ringing all over the world. St Paul's has now heard that call. Today's decision means that the doors are most emphatically open to engage with matters concerning not only those encamped around the cathedral but millions of others in this country and around the globe."
The cathedral is going to launch an initiative headed by a merchant banker in a bid to reconnect the financial and the ethical.
The church's decision to open its doors to discussions with and alongside the protesters comes after St Paul's initially welcomed the protesters, then closed the cathedral for the first time in 70 years for health and safety fears.
The indecision of church authorities has been criticized among media and the public, and reflected deep divisions within the church hierarchy over a policy which saw cathedral Canon Giles Fraser resign in protest at any policy that might lead to violence.
Cathedral Dean Graeme Knowles, the leader of the Chapter, resigned Monday because his advocacy of eviction was opposed by many.
The church said that Fraser would be involved in the initiative to reconnect finance and ethics.
Earlier, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, more than 150 demonstrators gathered in Parliament Square in central London, outside the Houses of Parliament, to protest against a law under discussion that would stop empty homes being occupied against the owners wishes by homeless people.
A spokesman for Squatters Action for Secure Homes (Squash) said, "Late last night police arrested homelessness protesters for attempting to sleep outside parliament against government plans to criminalize squatting. Hundreds of police were deployed to kettle a 'mass sleep out'."
A spokesman for London's Metropolitan Police confirmed that there had been 12 arrests.