07 March 2017
Christopher Lamb in Rome
Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to meet Pope Francis
Prince Charles has spoken out against the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and has made donations to charity Aid to the Church in Need
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will meet Pope Francis at the end of this month or at the beginning of April, Clarence House has confirmed.
The meeting with Francis will take place as part of a wider European tour and marks their first private audience with this Pope in the Vatican. A spokeswoman for Clarence House confirmed the meeting but could not give a precise date while a statement said the prince and the duchess will be in Italy and the Holy See from 31 March to 5 April.
When they do meet the Pope and Prince Charles should find points of common interest, particularly on the environment and interfaith dialogue. Both share a passion for protecting the natural world, with Francis writing a landmark environmental encyclical, Laudato Si’, on the topic while the prince has campaigned for 40 years on sustainability issues. Prince Charles has long championed interfaith discussion and has a keen interest in Islam while Francis has continually pushed the importance of dialogue between religions with the Vatican recently announcing a joint initiative with Egypt’s Al-Azhar university.
The British heir to the throne and future Supreme Governor of the Church of England has also spoken out against the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and has made sizeable donations to Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need. He has taken an ecumenical approach to Christianity by attending Catholic masses and spending time on retreat in the Orthodox monasteries of Mount Athos in Greece.
His visit to meet with Francis follows that of the Queen in 2014 who met with the Pope during a five-hour visit to Rome. Prince Charles and Camilla met with Benedict XVI back in 2009, which marked Charles' first audience at the Vatican since his divorce from the late Princess Diana.
The meeting with Francis will include an exchange of gifts. The Pope gave the Queen a present for her great-grandson, Prince George, during their meeting three years ago. For their part, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh gave Francis a hamper of produce from the royal estate of Sandringham in Norfolk.
In a statement released announcing the visit, the British Embassy to Italy explained that the UK Government had asked the Prince and Duchess to visit Europe, and their tour from the 29 March to the 6 April will also include Romani and Austria.
The visit is to take place after the UK Government triggers Article 50 and starts the formal process of leaving the European Union, the Vatican has taken a keen interest in the impact of Brexit.
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