by JONATHAN LUXMORE (OSV News)
OXFORD, England (OSV News) – England’s Catholic cardinal has pledged his Church’s allegiance to King Charles III ahead of his May 6 coronation, as the new monarch praised the work of faith communities in national life.
“For so many years, we have observed your desire and unstinting efforts to explore and enhance the well-being of the entire human family, through your commitment to religious faith, protection of the environment and relief of poverty,” said Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster. “The Catholic community is profoundly supportive of these fundamental concerns, as we strive to offer our society, your kingdom, an education for young people that is rooted in faith and its consequent commitment to human dignity.”
The cardinal spoke while heading a 12-member Catholic delegation to a March 9 ceremony in London’s Buckingham Palace, during which similar pledges were made by the representatives of the Protestant Church of England and Church of Scotland and 27 other Christian denominations, as well as of Jewish communities, royal academies, city guilds and historic universities.
Cardinal Nichols said that British Catholics remembered the “remarkable and unique role” played by the king’s late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, and would give “support and prayers” to Charles III, while also appreciating his “steadfast opposition to religious persecution”.
Meanwhile, the king paid tribute to the contribution of churches and other associations to the United Kingdom’s “national fabric”, and to advancing mutual knowledge and understanding.
“You underpin the very foundations on which our country is built and help construct a framework of excellence and achievement within which our civil society functions and our national narrative can be formed,” Charles III said at the ceremony, where “Privileged Bodies” historically allowed special access to the British monarch were in attendance.
“You remind us of an essential truth – that a nation’s wealth and strength can be found, beyond the size of its economy or its place in the geopolitical landscape, in the values it embodies: mutual respect, diversity, tolerance, fairness and friendship.”
Cardinal Nichols’ spokesman, Alexander DesForges, told OSV News he still awaited details of a role for Catholics in the upcoming coronation, but said the Church and Vatican would count on continuing “joint collaborative work” with the king in areas from interfaith ties to volunteering.
The May 6 coronation, which will be open to 2200 individuals, including government leaders and foreign VIPs, will formally confer royal titles automatically assumed by Charles III from his mother, and will be marked by a public holiday, street parties and a “Big Help Out” volunteering initiative.
The Protestant service, held for nine centuries in Westminster Abbey, will be organised, according to tradition, by the Duke of Norfolk, Edward Fitzalan-Howard – Britain’s highest-ranking noble and most senior lay Catholic – and will feature a Gospel choir and Greek Orthodox music in memory of the King’s Greek-born father, Prince Philip, as well as the Latin Veni Creator Spiritus used at episcopal consecrations.
The king will be crowned on a 700-year-old chair with the solid gold St Edward’s Crown, and will be presented with the orb and sceptre pictured last autumn atop the late queen’s coffin.
Holy oil for anointing the monarch and his queen-consort, Camilla, was consecrated March 4 at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and was made from groves at the city’s Mount of Olives and Mary Magdalene monastery, burial place of Charles III’s Orthodox grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece.
However, Buckingham Palace sources said the religious ceremony, though “rooted in long-standing traditions”, also would be smaller in scale than that of Queen Elizabeth in 1953, with a shorter procession.
They added that the service would be representative of different faiths and community groups, in line with the king’s wishes, and said the traditional coronation oath to preserve the “rights and privileges” of Protestant bishops and clergy was likely to be modified.
DesForges said it was expected the cardinal, who delivered a prayer at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, would have a “speaking role” at the coronation “in accordance with previous royal occasions”.
Photo: Then-Prince Charles of Britain and Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, chat during a reception at the Pontifical Urbanian University in Rome, on October 13, 2019, the day of the canonisation of St John Henry Newman and four others (OSV News photo/Arthur Edwards, pool via Reuters)
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