Bishop backs Prince's love for Camilla

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THE PRINCE of Wales's relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles appears to be gaining acceptance among the higher ranks of the Church of England.

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Richard Harries, yesterday urged people to show "understanding and compassion" for Prince Charles and Ms Parker Bowles. His comments echoed those of the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Rev Tom Butler, who on Sunday defended the couple's "friendship".

"Great numbers of people, I know, will have a fellow-feeling with both Camilla Parker Bowles and Prince Charles," Bishop Harries told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "The fact that they can get some support and mutual encouragement from one another, and clearly have a very deep relationship, I think deserves understanding and compassion."

But Bishop Harries, who is chairman of the Church of England's board of social responsibility, said it would be wrong to rush the issue of marriage. "Prince Charles has made it quite clear he and Camilla have no short-term or medium-term plans to get married and I don't think, whether it's Prince Charles or anybody else, we should push a couple into any kind of precipitate action."

The Rev Dr Anthony Harvey, Sub-Dean of Westminster and a writer on sexual morality, agreed with Bishop Harries's view. Intimate relations of people in public life were subject to much comment, which made those people vulnerable, he said. "We all hope he Prince of Wales should receive the kind of personal support from friends that we receive ourselves."

The comments by senior church figures appear to mark the beginning of a change in attitude. Two years ago, a poll showed more than half the bishops and clergy thought Prince Charles would be unacceptable as king and Supreme Governor of the Church if he remarried.