a Christian king very open to other religions

a Christian king very open to other religions

King Charles III, who will be crowned on Saturday May 6 at Westminster Abbey, will take the oath as “ defender of the faith Christian, as is the Anglican tradition. This symbolic title, conferred since 1521 on all English monarchs, signifies that the British sovereign is the head of the Church of England.

But is Charles a believer? If his mother Elizabeth II had openly shared her deep faith, the spiritual anchoring of the new monarch may have seemed more ambiguous. In his authorized biography, written by Jonathan Dimbleby, the former Prince of Wales explained indeed considering his future title of “defender of the faith” as a defense “of the divine in existence” here “in each of us” but “expressed in so many different ways”.

Imbued with a certain spirituality, his remarks on the living could, in the past, shock the scientific community. In 1996, for example, he accused science of exerting a “tyranny over our understanding”. Four years later, he claimed that “the sacred trust between humanity and the creator” for the “man’s duty of stewardship to the earth” was “stifled by almost impenetrable layers of scientific rationalism”.

Known for his commitment to the defense of the environment, Charles also praised the “visionary gaze” by Rudolf Steiner, in 2017, in his opening speech at a congress of the Universal Anthroposophical Society – a philosophical and spiritual current targeted by accusations of sectarian aberrations.

“It’s complicated to know if he has faith”, recognizes Gavin Ashenden, chaplain to the queen from 2008 to 2017, who recalls that on the one hand there is public faith, a matter of duty, and on the other private faith. “To his mother, it was clear that the two were linked, continues the former chaplain. With Charles you don’t know: there may be a difference between the faith of his heart and his public faith. »

Having grown up in Scotland, where the Presbyterian (Calvinist) denomination is in the majority, and son of Prince Philip, of Greek-Orthodox faith until his marriage to Elizabeth and his conversion to Anglicanism, Charles III is also familiar with the ecumenism. In this capacity, he had stayed in 2004 at Mount Athos, a high place of Greek Orthodoxy where there is a legally independent monastic community housing twenty monasteries.

Intervention of other cults in the ceremony

For his coronation, the new king has also chosen to display his openness to other religions by including in the ceremony an intervention by representatives of other religions, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, and for the first time since nearly 500 years old, Catholic. They should state that ” as neighbors in faith, (they) recognize (ent) the value of public service “. ” We are united with people of all faiths and beliefs in thanksgiving and in service with you for the common good”should they add, according to elements released by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who will preside over the ceremony.

After the death of his mother, in September 2022, Charles already affirmed to the various religious leaders that he had always considered Great Britain as ” a community of communities “. Assuring that his duty was to ” protect diversity » of his country, he included « protecting spaces for faith and its practices, across religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs “.

Closeness to Islam

The new king has regularly testified to his closeness to Muslims – 6.5% of the English and Welsh population according to the results of the 2021 census – through his desire to establish “bridges of understanding” with Islam. On several occasions, he said he studied the Koran.

In April 2022, he and his wife Camilla sent their wishes to all Muslims in the kingdom and the Commonwealth, on the first day of the month of fasting. He had greeted “all that we can learn from the spirit of Ramadan – generosity, abstinence, gratitude and sharing in prayer”. A wish that he renewed again recently, at the opening of Ramadan 2023, in March.

“Defender of Beliefs”

His openness to other religions had also caused trouble within the Anglican Church during an interview in 1994, in which he had stated that he envisaged his future role as sovereign as that of “defender of beliefs” rather than the Christian faith alone.

“I think these are the words of a young man who did not understand the difficulties of the subject, tempers Gavin Ashenden. Today, he would be more careful. » In fact, he went back on his remarks in 2015 during an interview with the BBC, specifying then that he would prefer to be “considered a defender of the faith”for his concern for “the inclusion of the faith of others and their freedom of worship in this country”.

Without questioning the symbolism of the title, his declaration reflected the openness of the new sovereign to other religions and spiritualities, in a multi-confessional but increasingly secularized United Kingdom. In 2016, for the first time, citizens of no faith became the majority in the country.

“Charles has always tried to have a speech that respects his dual role as defender of the Anglican faith and future king of the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, in a system where the concept of French secularism does not exist. not “, remarks Jane Stranz, a Protestant pastor, involved in the dialogue with the Anglicans.

For Hervé Picton, professor of British civilization (1), the spiritual positioning of the new king ultimately reflects “the liberalism and ecumenism of the Church of England itself, which has been trying to open up to other religions and faiths since the beginning of the 20th century”.

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