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Bishop says sorry for 'offensive' royal wedding comments

A Church of England bishop apologised today for "deeply offensive" comments he made over the forthcoming wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, said he had conveyed his "sincere regrets" to the Prince of Wales and to Prince William and his fiancee Miss Middleton for the "distress" caused by remarks he made about the marriage.

In comments posted on Facebook, the bishop warned that the marriage may last only seven years and reportedly referred to the Royal Family as "philanderers".

He said in a statement: "I have conveyed to Prince Charles and to Prince William and Kate Middleton my sincere regrets for the distress caused by my remarks and the subsequent media attention about the forthcoming royal wedding.

"I recognise that the tone of my language and the content of what I said were deeply offensive, and I apologise unreservedly for the hurt caused.

"It was unwise of me to engage in a debate with others on a semi-public internet forum and to express myself in such language.

"I accept that this was a major error of judgment on my part.

"I wish Prince William and Kate Middleton a happy and lifelong marriage, and will hold them in my prayers."

The bishop's apology was issued as the Queen, who is Supreme Governor of the Church of England, is due to formally open the General Synod, the Church's national assembly in London tomorrow.

His critical comments were revealed in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

A post on the bishop's Twitter site, made on the same day as the royal wedding announcement, read: "Need to work out what date in the spring or summer I should be booking my republican day trip to France..."

His comments were condemned by Tory MP and friend of Prince Charles, Nicholas Soames, who told the paper: "They (the comments) are extremely rude, not what one expects from a bishop."

A source close to the clergyman said: "The bishop had actually written he didn't think the marriage would last more than seven years because of harassment by the press, but I imagine the full quote was not printed."

A spokesman for Clarence House declined to comment on the bishop's postings.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: "It is extraordinary that a bishop of the Church of England should be a republican, given that Prince William - when he ascends the throne - will be his future boss."

A spokeswoman for Clarence House said they would not be commenting on the bishop's apology.