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By Maria Antonietta Calabrò

The coronation of King Charles III among the many novelties of the ceremony saw the blessings of other religious exponents to the King who is head of the Church of England, and who has sworn to defend the Protestant succession for the Throne.

But tne new king has also chosen as his own title , no longer the "Defender of the Faith", but "of the Faiths", of all faiths and conditions present in the United Kingdom.

In particular, the novelty of the coronation concerning the Catholic Church is important, because its representatives were present for the first time after the schism of Henry VIII. King Charles was also blessed by Cardinal Vincent Nicholson, Catholic archbishop of Westminster. Pope Francis sent the Vatican Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin as his personal representative and gave the new king a very precious relic of two pieces of wood from the Cross of Jesus Christ which, in a shrine with the Celtic cross, opened the royal procession to the coronation.

"The throne of Christ is the cross," said the Anglican archbishop, primate of England, Justin Welby, in his homily.

The coronation in Wensmister Abbey is a religious ceremony. The olive oil, with which Charles III was anointed King, comes from the Garden of Olives (place of Christ's Passion) and was blessed in Jerusalem at the end of February.

With the Catholic Church it is certainly not the overcoming of the schism, but a very important step.

The presence of papal representatives in the Abbey also represents a change from the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953, when the Catholic Archbishop watched the procession to and from the Abbey but did not enter the cathedral building.

Westminster Cardinal Nicholson described Catholic participation in the coronation in an interview with the Tablet as a "gathering together", stressing that the coronation liturgies have been Catholic for 500 years. Nicholson also added that the coronation ceremony, which includes the celebration of the Eucharist, has numerous prayers that English Catholics know very well. The Gloria was taken from William Byrd's sixteenth-century "Mass for four voices," written for recusants who had refused to join the newly formed Church of England.

"Catholic participation," the cardinal declared, "is radical because it is a renewal of something that has been broken for so long."

And he added: "It is a reciprocal ecumenism, an exchange of gifts". All the more necessary as the number of professed Christians in the UK in 2021 fell below fifty per cent, according to data published by the Guardian, a few days ago.

However, the coronation of a British monarch is a typical Church of England rite. During the ceremony, the king pledged to maintain and defend the "Reformed Protestant religion" and to "ensure the Protestant succession to the throne".

Pope Francis has a good relationship with Charles III and met the future King in 2017 and again in 2019 when the then Prince of Wales came to the Vatican for the canonization of John Henry Newman.

The first meeting between the new King Charles III and the Pope is expected shortly.


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