Unlikely allies at last: Prince and Pope

Charles warns of 'new Dark Age' if global warming cannot be tackled

A A A

Throughout the last 500 years the Vatican and the Royal Family have had their share of disagreements. Not least about wives.

But yesterday they were as one. Both about wives, and perhaps more importantly, about the future of the planet.

Protocol would normally dictate that Prince Charles, on his third visit to the Vatican, would initially meet Pope Benedict without the Duchess of Cornwall. But protocol was waived to enable them to meet the Pope together, instead of the Duchess coming in at the end.

And while detail of the conversations were not released – the environment was at the top of the agenda where both men are know to be ahead of their respective countries.

Last week the Pope's sovereign state, which has been aggressively pursuing a low emissions policy for several years, announced that it was investing €500m to equip it with what it boasted would be "the biggest solar panels in the world," to be installed on the roof of the Santa Maria Galleria within the Vatican's grounds. Last autumn a huge set of panels was installed on Paul VI Hall, a modern auditorium next to St Peter's.

And two years ago the Vatican began planting a forest in Hungary on land donated by well-wishers, which is intended to compensate for all the city state's carbon dioxide emissions. "The Vatican wants to play its small part in the elimination of CO2 emissions," commented Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, at the time.

"When man forgets that he is the servant of the earth and becomes its master, the earth itself rebels against man and instead of being a place of welcome becomes a desert which threatens the survival of Creation." Sentiments which the Prince would heartily endorse.

Speaking in the Italian parliament, Prince Charles warned that the world risked entering "a new Dark Age" if global warming was not curbed. "Only 99 months remain before we reach the point of no return," he said. Italy, as president of the G8 this year, "was in an ideal position to prove its leadership at a global level."

As the Prince is doubtless aware, however, Mr Berlusconi's Italy has shown little enthusiasm for embracing tough measures to reduce CO2 emissions, and threatened to veto the EU Energy and Climate Package last October.

The Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall enjoyed a tour of the Vatican followed by a 15-minute tête-a-tête with the Pope. The Prince also had a half-hour meeting with the Pope's Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

The last time Charles visited the Vatican was for the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005. "He was such a wonderful man, we miss him terribly," the Prince was heard to remark as he was leaving the Hall of the Popes where the meeting with Benedict took place.

Prince Charles gave the pope a set of dessert plates decorated with paintings of flowers from his Highgrove Estate, remarking, "I don't know whether these will be of any use to you," as he handed them over. The Pope gave the couple an etching showing St Peter's before it was re-designed by Michelangelo.

No more was heard of the gift which, according to reports last week, the Pope had been intending to give to the couple: a magnificent facsimile of the letter written by English peers to Pope Clement VII in 1530, pleading for the annulment of Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

As a key document in the history of the rift with Rome and the English Reformation, it is a fascinating piece of history. But as a present to two royal British divorcees from a Pope whose uncompromising views on the subject are common knowledge, it would have lacked something in diplomatic finesse.

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'