LONDON (RNS) — The British heir to the throne who would also become Supreme Governor of the Church of England when he becomes king is to make an unprecedented plea for peace in the Middle East at a special service for persecuted Christians in London on Tuesday (Dec. 4) .
Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, will deliver his own personal reflection on the crisis for Christians at a service in Westminster Abbey.
Four patriarchs of Middle East churches, Coptic church leaders, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Jewish, Muslim and Roman Catholic leaders from Britain will also attend the service. There they will hear the prince urge an end to extremism in the region and speak of the importance of Christians staying in the part of the world where Christianity was founded.
The plight of persecuted Christians is a cause that has become dear to the prince over many years. He met refugees on several occasions, hosting them and charity officials from the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need at his homes in London and Scotland. But this is the first time he has spoken from the pulpit on the subject during a church service.
The site of the service is significant.
Westminster Abbey is the church where Charles eventually would be crowned king. At that time he would also assume the title of Defender of the Faith, first held by Henry VIII and used by all British sovereigns since. Church leaders have been concerned that the prince wished to dilute this role given that in the past, he suggested adapting it to be Defender of Faiths to reflect Britain’s multiculturalism.
But the prince’s concern for persecuted Christians has reassured many people of his commitment to the Church of England. And his concern extends to refugees of all faiths.
At Christmas two years ago, Prince Charles spoke on BBC radio about his concerns for religious refugees.
“The suffering doesn’t end when they arrive seeking refuge in a foreign land,” he said. “We are now seeing the rise of many populist groups across the world that are increasingly aggressive toward those who adhere to a minority faith.”
Seventy years after the Holocaust, he said such “evil persecution” was “beyond all belief.”
“We owe it to those who suffered and died so horribly not to repeat the horrors of the past,” he said.
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Source: Religion News Service