The coronation of the Prince of Wales will be a “multi-faith” event.
Prayers and readings from other denominations and religions, including from the Muslim, Sikh and Jewish faiths, are expected to be included in the ceremonies marking Prince Charles’s accession to the throne.
Canon John Hall, the Dean-elect of Westminster Abbey, said that the traditional Church of England coronation service must be revised to reflect society’s changes since the Queen’s coronation in 1953. As dean, he will be on the committee responsible for drawing up the service.
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“The coronation service needs to find the right way of including people of other faiths,” Canon Hall told The Sunday Telegraph. “It must be different in some ways because of the nature of society and how things have changed.”
He said that the Church must be prepared to let other faiths play a role in the service. “We need to recognise the reality of religion at the heart of our national life. Rather than hold it possessively, it has become possible to help to create space for other religions within our national life. It is leading to inclusion and cohesion.”
The proposed changes follow comments already made by Prince Charles, who has said that he wants to be “Defender of Faith” — not “Defender of the Faith” — when he succeeds to the throne.
The Duke of Norfolk, in his role as Earl Marshal, has already begun overseeing a review of the ceremonies for the accession, and will consult with the dean over the coronation service.
Although at 80, the Queen remains in good health, preliminary discussions have already begun between the duke and Clarence House over possible alterations to the service, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt. The Prince’s office is conducting a parallel review of the accession ceremonies.
Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has said that he thinks that the Queen may abdicate if she becomes seriously ill.
Canon Hall suggested that the revised service should follow an inclusive style similar to the Commonwealth Observance, a Church of England ceremony in which people from other denominations and faiths take part by saying prayers and sharing testimonies.
Alison Ruoff, a member of the General Synod, the church’s parliament, voiced concern about the plans.
“We should not pander to political correctness,” she said. “There is no way that other faiths should be involved in the service. This is a Christian country and so the coronation service must remain exclusively Christian and we should not apologise for that.”
Canon Hall praised the prince’s success in reaching out to “other communities” within our society and welcomed his desire to be “Defender of Faith”.
The prince expressed his wish to be more inclusive in 1994, saying: “I believe that the Catholic subjects of the sovereign are as important [as Protestants], not to mention the Islamic, Hindu and Zoroastrian.”
However, Canon Hall emphasised that the Church of England must remain at the heart of the coronation since the prince will be its Supreme Governor when he becomes king.
The crowning of the sovereign has taken place for almost 1,000 years at Westminster Abbey. The new king or queen takes the coronation oath, which includes a pledge to “maintain” the Church of England.
The Dean of Westminster’s main role in a coronation service is assisting the Archbishop of Canterbury, which includes handing the archbishop the crown to put on the monarch’s head.
As a Royal Peculiar church, like St George’s Chapel at Windsor, Westminster Abbey falls under the direct jurisdiction of the Queen rather than that of a diocesan bishop.
In the past 10 years, the dean has conducted the funerals of the Queen Mother and Diana, Princess of Wales, and the service for the Queen’s golden jubilee.
Canon Hall, who was the church’s chief education officer, will be installed as Dean of Westminster in December and succeeds the Very Rev Wesley Carr, who left the post in February.
Canon Hall claimed that the Church of England still had a vital role to play in the life of the nation despite a continual decline in the number of its worshippers.
“Well over 50 per cent of the population see themselves as belonging to the Church of England. It’s a sign of far greater adherence than is often suggested.”