Prince Charles of Britain is meeting the pope Monday for the first time since his 1996 divorce from Princess Diana, representatives for both sides said.
The heir to the United Kingdom throne will be accompanied by his second wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. Prince Charles’s accession to the throne is likely to be an unspoken subtext of the meeting, an expert on the prince told CNN. “The biggest thing on Prince Charles’s agenda is the preparation for his coronation,” said Christopher Wilson, author of “The Windsor Knot: Charles, Camilla and the Legacy of Diana.” Charles would like the pope to attend personally, unlikely as that may be, given the religious divide between London and Rome, Wilson said. “He will expect a high-profile Roman Catholic presence in Westminster Abbey,” where he will be crowned, Wilson argued. “The combined heads of state come from everywhere. Every democratically elected head of state will be invited. It bigs up your coronation if you can get the highest Roman Catholic to come.” The meeting between prince and pope comes days after the 500th anniversary of the crowning of Henry VIII, the English king who broke with the Roman Catholic Church and established the Church of England because he wanted to divorce. It will be Prince Charles’s first visit to the Vatican since he went to the funeral of Pope John Paul II four years ago, and his first meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, according to his office, Clarence House. There are multiple factors complicating his relationship with the Vatican, Wilson pointed out. Not only is he divorced, which the Roman Catholic Church disapproves of, but so is Camilla — and her children are being raised as Catholics because their father is one.
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A centuries-old British law forbids Catholics from acceding to the throne or for the monarch to marry a Catholic. Charles “is trying to break down the breach between the Vatican and the House and Windsor,” Wilson said. “It’s a path-smoothing exercise.” Additionally, he said, “Prince Charles likes very much to be photographed with heads of state. He’s not the head of state himself. It adds luster to his royal presence.” Charles and the pope are expected to discuss issues such as interfaith dialogue and climate change — subjects to which Prince Charles has devoted himself. Charles and Camilla are on a tour of Italy and Germany at the request of Britain’s Foreign Office, Clarence House said. The European Union director of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Matthew Rycroft, cited “the prince’s personal passion and personal engagement over the years on the issue of climate change” as a major reason for the trip, a Clarence House statement said.