Selfie-obsessed tourists threaten church 'sacred space', says Oxford priest

An Oxford priest at 'the most visited parish church in England' has hit out at selfie-obsessed tourists disturbing church worship in the 'sacred space' of the historic sanctuary.

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford sees more than 400,000 tourists every year.Ben Sutherland/ Flickr

The Rev Charlotte Bannister-Parker, associate priest as The University Church of St Mary the Virgin in High Street, Oxford made her complains in a recent newsletter, according to The Oxford Times.

'I am not usually a grumpy person but I have been overwhelmed by the numbers of tourists coming through the church and the fact that so many of them seem unaware that this is a sacred space.'

She added: 'Not only is the whole experience of visiting St Mary's so often seen through a camera lens but also some visitors seem completely unaware of the difference between this space as "the House of God" and, say, that of the Sheldonian,' referring to Oxford's historic ceremonial hall and tourist destination.

She has invited staff and visitors of the church, which sees visitors numbering more than 400,000 every year, to 'challenge the mentality that 'if you don't take a photo it did not happen'.

Graham Campbell, a visitor from Australia, appeared to agree with the sentiment, saying: 'I think it's quite right that tourists inside the church should show respect to people who are worshipping.'

The Oxford church's vicar, the the Rev Dr William Lamb, stressed that tourists were welcome there.

'We want to encourage visitors to come to St Mary's and to ensure that they have the best possible experience,' he said.

'This ministry of hospitality is an important part of our mission as a church. At the same time, we are also aware that the sheer volume of visitors and tourists sometimes detracts from the peace and tranquility offered by the University Church.'