The UK’s non-Christian faiths and its Celtic languages will play a prominent role for the first time in a royal coronation when King Charles III is crowned next week, organizers said on Saturday.
The May 6 service at Westminster Abbey will be overwhelmingly drawn from the Christian liturgy as Charles takes an oath, in English, to serve as “Defender of the (Protestant) Faith” and to protect the established Church of England.
But in a first, it will also feature a prominent role for Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jewish leaders, according to the order of service released by the office of Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
At the end of the coronation, they will deliver a greeting in unison to Charles declaring that “as neighbors in faith, we acknowledge the value of public service”.
“We unite with people of all faiths and beliefs in thanksgiving, and in service with you for the common good,” they will say.
Members of the House of Lords from the minority faiths will hand non-Christian regalia to the king, such as gold bracelets and the royal robe.
Rishi Sunak, Britain’s first Hindu prime minister, will give a reading from the Bible at the service, which will also be attended by Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf, the first Muslim to hold the post and to lead a Western European government.
“The sovereign has an additional duty… to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for faith itself.”
Charles is a committed Christian and, according to the memoir “Spare” by his younger son Prince Harry, prays every night.
But the king also has a lifelong interest in other religions, and has spoken in the past about defending all faiths, not just Anglicanism, as Britain grew more multi-cultural.
Before his mother Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral in September last year, he held a reception at Buckingham Palace for faith leaders, and described himself as a “committed Anglican Christian”.
But he recognised that the country he inherited is very different from the one his mother did 70 years previously.
“I have always thought of Britain as a ‘community of communities’,” he said.
“That has led me to understand that the sovereign has an additional duty… to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for faith itself.”