Pope Francis seems to have caused a stir within many Catholics after the announcement that he gave relics of the True Cross to King Charles III for his coronation on May 6. Charles will be officially crowned as king of the United Kingdom (and his wife Camilla will be crowned queen) following his mother, Queen Elizabeth’s, death. Many Catholics are celebrating and reflect appreciation for the pope’s gift to the king. Others, on the other hand, disagree with the pope providing such precious relics to a church that is outside communion with the Catholic Church.
According to Catholic News Agency, “the precious relics have been inlaid into the ‘Cross of Wales,’ which will head Charles’ procession into Westminster Abbey, where he will be officially crowned.” Pope Francis gave the gift to King Charles, head of the Church of England (which broke off from the Catholic Church), and King Charles made the decision to have the relics lead his procession. The relics have been, in turn, given by King Charles to the Church of England where the Church will allow them to be venerated by Anglicans and Catholics.
The generosity of Pope Francis was met with reactions from Catholics on both sides of the spectrum. Social media lit up with Catholics questioning the decision as well as those who were in full support. Many highlighted the fact that Charles was the head of a Protestant Church. Others praised the pope and stated the relics were not the property exclusively of the Catholic Church.
Keith Matthews, on Twitter, said, “Disappointing. This recognizes Charles as the secular head of another church.”
“To a Protestant. Ok?”, tweeted CaffeScorretto.
“What a waste”, said Reynoso Garcia.
“I don’t get it. The Church of England? Isn’t that sort of a slap in the face to Catholics in England that have been persecuted and martyred for the faith? I do not get it,” said Laura Howard Sturgeon.
Others, however, had differing views and supported the pope. They see it as a sign of an attempt to show unity of christians or a gesture of good will. They view the gift as a reflection of friendship between the two churches.
“Love this! Relics will be respected, in the center of the #Coronation and an extension of friendship. Relics are NOT (copyright) Catholic Church Inc but are sacramentals to be used in Misdion Territory,” tweeted Allie.
“What a charitable and loving gift that honors the two greatest Commandments,” said Cassandra Theodora.
Under the reign of King Henry VIII, the Church of England broke away from the Catholic Church in 1534 following the denial of Pope Clement VII to grant King Henry an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Henry desired to marry Anne Boleyn. Boleyn was, in fact, Catherine’s maid. The church doctrine did not permit divorce and King Henry VIII did not have proper grounds for a divorce, so the pope rejected his request. Henry and his advisors broke away from the church and rejected the authority of the papacy to allow Henry to marry again.
The Catholic Church prohibits Catholics from receiving communion at an Anglican Mass. Anglicans, due to their differing Eucharistic belief, are prohibited from receiving communion at a Catholic Mass. But, it appears, they are certainly permitted to have sacred relics.