Charles to get multi-faith coronation

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THE PRINCE OF WALES will be crowned King in a multi-faith inauguration ceremony rather than the 1,000-year-old Christian coronation service, under plans being discussed by the Church of England.

Anglican bishops are privately considering changes to the ritual, including involving other religious leaders, the rewriting of the oath, and the abandonment of the eucharist when the next monarch succeeds to the throne.

The plan - which will call into question the role of the monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England - is on the agenda of a consultation group on church-state relations, involving Dr David Hope, the Archbishop of York, which has been meeting in Sheffield for almost a year.

Advisers to the Queen and the Prince of Wales have been informally consulted and believe that reform of the coronation ceremony is inevitable. Dr George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is also understood to agree that the crowning of the next monarch cannot take the same form as the last coronation in 1953, when Queen Elizabeth pledged to "preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England".

The debate is part of a wide-ranging discussion of "establishment" which is likely to lead to a significant loosening of the link between church and state over the next few years. The Government will this week announce that the future role of the bishops in Parliament will be part of the remit of the royal commission examining reform of the Lords.

However, senior clergymen are focusing their attention on the coronation service, which dates back to 973. Dr David Jenkins, the former Bishop of Durham, has been commissioned by the Sheffield group to write a paper on the future of the ceremony. In an essay, in the Independent on Sunday today, he argues that the next reign should be instituted "not by a coronation but by an inauguration or installation".

It should be "a secular ceremony to which contributions were made from traditions of all faiths", he said. The Sheffield committee, which has already had three meetings about the changing nature of the religious establishment, will discuss the issue in the coming weeks.

There is now widespread support in the Church of England for reform of the coronation ceremony. One insider said it would be an "abomination" in a multicultural society for the Church of England to retain exclusivity over the ceremony.

The Bishop of Oxford, the Right Rev Richard Harries, said that other religious leaders "need to be much more than guests, they need to be clearly at the centre of things".

The Prince of Wales has made clear that he wants to be the "defender of faith" rather than "defender of the faith" when he succeeds to the throne. He is understood to believe that introducing a multi-faith coronation or inauguration ceremony would be a central part of that shift.

Focus, page 22; Leading article, page 24; David Jenkins, page 25