PRINCE Charles, heir to the British throne, has indicated that
as king he might not wish to be head of the Church of England.
But his reluctance to assume leadership of the "established"
(official) church has attracted severe criticism from senior
Anglican bishops, who say that the prince has a duty to continue in
Charles's misgivings about perpetuating Queen Elizabeth II's
function as church leader were voiced in a TV program that he
appeared on to try to rehabilitate his image in the eyes of his
people following the breakdown of his marriage to Diana, princess
of Wales, in 1992.
Under close questioning, he said he would rather be seen as
"Defender of Faith" than as "Defender of The Faith," the words
officially used to define his religious responsibilities. Charles
said the official usage "means just one particular interpretation
of the faith.... People have fought each other to death over these
things, which seems to me a peculiar waste of people's energy when
we are all actually aiming for the same ultimate goal," he said,
adding that faith was "so much under threat these days."
His remarks, however, drew a sharp rejoinder from John Habgood,
the Archbishop of York, the second most senior Anglican official.
Dr. Habgood said loosening the links between church and state might
"cause the British Constitution to unravel" and "jeopardize the
monarchy itself." A spokeswoman for George Carey, the Archbishop
of Canterbury, the country's top-ranking bishop, said he shared
fears that amending the 300-year-old coronation oath could be
Views others' faiths as equal
Sources close to Prime Minister John Major said he too was
concerned lest the historical ties between church and state be
weakened. What appears to have heightened alarm over the prince's
remarks was his suggestion that, as king, he would be happier
adopting a multifaith leadership role.
In the TV interview he said he regarded Roman Catholic, Muslim,
Zoroastrian, and all other classes of citizens as of "equal
importance to Protestants."
Some 85 percent of Britain's 55 million population professes to
be Christian. Anglicans account for about half the total, but fewer
than 1 million attend church regularly. Roman Catholics account for
13 percent of the Christian community. Many of Britain's non-white
population of around 2 million belong to non-Christian religions.
Most of these are Muslim, but there are also significant Jewish,
Hindu, and Sikh communities. …