Prince Charles 'lost interest in Church in 1980'

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The Independent Online
The Prince of Wales lost interest in the Church of England as long ago as 1980, even though he is destined to become its Supreme Governor, a new biography of Lord Runcie is expected to say when published next month.

Lord Runcie is also reported as saying that he was asked by the Royal Family to teach Princess Diana about duty when they noticed she was under strain in the early years of her marriage, but that he felt she needed sympathetic counselling rather than lectures on God.

The biography, by Humphrey Carpenter, paints a picture of a cool relationship between Lambeth Palace and the House of Windsor. According to sources close to the former Archbishop, there is considerable anxiety within the Church of England hierarchy about the commitment of Prince Charles to the established church. The Prince's interest in "New Age" thinking is regarded as alarming.

The biography also highlights the controversies of Lord Runcie's archbishopric regarding homosexual priests. He is quoted as saying: "I've never found dealing with homosexuals very easy. I've enjoyed their friendship, but I've always been conscious that they might stab me in the back because I wasn't one of them." He also says: "With treatment, and with the right sort of girl determined to marry them, they're happily married and have children."

This has angered and confused the gay Christian lobby. The Rev Richard Kirker, a deacon whom Lord Runcie refused to ordain to the priesthood 20 years ago, and who now runs the Lesbian and Gay Christian movement, said yesterday: "Any suggestion that a treatment or cure for homosexuals is either desirable or possible is purest fantasy."

The book is partly based on tape recordings which the former archbishop made shortly after his retirement in 1991, when he was under the impression that nothing would be published against his will until after he was safely dead. He was later shocked to discover that there was nothing in the contract giving him any sort of control over the content or timing of the final publication.

"I presented Runcie with the first draft and the blood drained from his face," said Mr Carpenter yesterday.