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Several English newspapers today (12 May 2004) speak of Prince Charles' current pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain. As usual, they are full of gross factual errors, sometimes deliberate pieces of anti-Christian nastiness as in The Guardian, sometimes merely errors of sheer journalistic ignorance. Nevertheless, as we mentioned in our article of Bright Monday 2002 (see Archived Material), it is clear that the Prince of Wales is seriously interested in Orthodox Christianity. As even The Guardian states, Mt Athos is 'the world's holiest site'.

Of course it is hardly surprising when we consider that thirty years before the birth of the royal Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor, several of his relatives had been martyred in the Russia of 1918. His father, Prince Philip, born in Corfu, is Greek Orthodox, his grandmother was an Orthodox nun, who had a chapel in Buckingham Palace, and his cousin is the exiled King Constantine of Greece. It was the latter who introduced Prince Charles to Fr Ephraim of Vatopedi Monastery on the Holy Mountain.

This is the Prince's third visit to Mt Athos in the last twelve months. During this time he has not only given financial support to Vatopedi, but also donated over £600,000 (in excess of $1,000,000) for restoration work to the Serbian Monastery of Hilandari on Athos after the fire there during Lent this year. Prince Charles' first visit to the Holy Mountain took place very shortly after the death of Princess Diana in 1997. Many have said that it was this tragedy which triggered that first visit to Mt Athos. Whether this visit was sparked by human sorrow, or by a feeling of contrition for any part he may have played in the Princess' own drama, we cannot say. Most believe, however, that his interest in the Orthodox Church goes back much further than these events and it is not merely a matter of family background. It is said that he has had a genuine interest in Orthodox life and spirituality for a very long time.

Nonetheless, whatever Prince Charles' interior state, he is limited in his range of actions regarding the Orthodox Faith. Unless he is to renounce his right to inherit the British Throne, he cannot become Orthodox. The British monarch must automatically become the head of the Protestant Church of England, not becoming a member of the Orthodox Church. Given Prince Charles' intense dislike for the sort of modernistic secular political correctness which now dominates the Anglican Communion, which is virtually in schism on the issue of homosexuality, perhaps his renunciation of the throne would be no bad thing.

His controversial pro-Orthodox position would then no longer be controversial. The British throne could pass from Prince Charles, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, to Prince Charles' eldest son, Prince William. This would leave Prince Charles with the spiritual freedom to renounce spiritual emptiness and join the Orthodox Church. In self-renunciation and acceptance of Orthodoxy, he would find not only a solution to his present anomalous marital position. Above all he would recover his own roots and the spiritual depth and historic righteousness of the Early Church.

Whatever the future decides, we can certainly agree with one Athonite monk: 'Prince Charles is Orthodox in his heart'.

Fr Andrew

On 11 May, the Romanian Elder Fr Dionysius (Ignat) of Colciu Skete reposed in Christ. (See our article: 'An Alternative Constitution for the European Union' ). Aged 95, he had been on Mt Athos since 1926, longer than any other monk. HRH Prince Charles attended his funeral, together with some 200 monks. May the Kingdom of Heaven be his!

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