The Prince of Wales has worked for many years to encourage inter-faith dialogue, greater understanding of different religions and wider involvement of ethnic communities within British communal life.
The Prince was christened in December 1948 at Buckingham Palace and confirmed at Windsor Castle in 1965. His Royal Highness chose to begin the day of his 21st birthday by taking Holy Communion in the chapel of the Tower of London.
As Heir to The Throne, The Prince of Wales is also Heir to the Sovereign's special role, dating back to the 16th Century, as Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England - the first title granted by Pope Leo X to King Henry VIII, and the second stemming from the establishment of the Church of England.
The Prince of Wales is a practising Anglican and attends church regularly with The Duchess of Cornwall. He frequently meets senior members of the Anglican Church. In March 2013, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall attended the enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev Justin Welby, at Canterbury Cathedral.
The Prince often visits churches in other parts of the United Kingdom and abroad.
In February 2010, The Prince visited St Mellitus College, together with the Bishop of London. The Prince met ordinands, staff and students. The Prince also met representatives from Holy Trinity Brompton and other Christian organisations in London.
In July 2010, The Prince visited All Saints Church in Peckham to see how five female volunteers stopped the church from being demolished and increased the congregation from around 20 members in 1996 to more than 500. During the visit The Prince praised the group of "battling ladies” for their determination. The Prince’s visit was also the focus of an episode on BBC Songs of Praise. During the visit The Prince was interviewed by the host of Songs of Praise, Diane Louise Jordan.
In February 2012, The Prince visited Anglo-Catholic Churches in Camden, North-West London. Later on that day The Prince was joined by The Duchess of Cornwall at a service to celebrate the Christian Festival of Candlemas. Their Royal Highnesses were keen to celebrate the role Churches play in their communities.
In April 2013 The Prince of Wales recorded a video message for the Big Church Day Out, a Christian music festival that takes place annually in Sussex, England. In the video The Prince talks about the relevance of the church in today's society and importance of communities gathering together on occasions such as the Big Church Day Out. The Prince's message was used on a special BBC Songs of Praise programme about the festival.
The Prince has visited St. George’s Belfast (Church of Ireland Church) in April 2012 and St. Malachy’s Church, Belfast (Roman Catholic) in February 2011. During an official tour of South Africa in 2011, Their Royal Highnesses attended a service in St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town. Their Royal Highnesses were joined by the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and the current Archbishop of Cape Town, The Most Revd Thabo Cecil Makgoba. Whilst in Denmark on an official tour of Scandinavia in March 2012, Their Royal Highnesses attended a service at St Alban’s Anglican Church in Copenhagen.
During an official visit to Qatar in February 2014 The Prince of Wales visited the Doha Religious Complex. The Prince paid visits to the St Isaac and St George Greek Orthodox Church, which has a vibrant congregation from orthodox communities from across the Arab world; the Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, which holds masses in twelve different languages, and the Anglican Church of the Epiphany, catering to the many Protestant communities present in Qatar. After which, His Royal Highness took part in a discussion with Christian community leaders, based there, to hear more about their experiences of living and working in the region. The Prince met worshippers from a host of countries including Iraq, Syria, Egypt, India, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.
The Prince is profoundly attached to the traditional rites of the Church of England and to the Book of Common Prayer, which he described in 1989 as having survived because it was "sensitive to the profound human need for continuity and permanence".
The Prince is Patron of The Prayer Book Society and attended their annual conference in September 2006, held on the day of the 450th anniversary of the martyrdom of the book’s author, Thomas Cranmer. He also visited the exhibition about The Prayer Book at Lambeth Palace with The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, in May 2012 and attending a special service to mark 350 years of the 1662 version of The Book of Common Prayer in May 2012.
In 2011, as Patron of the Bible Society’s 2011 Trust celebrating 400 years since the completion of the King James Bible, The Prince helped lead the nation in celebrations. The Prince took part in various projects and events to celebrate the anniversary including hosting a reception at Clarence House, attending a service at Westminster Abbey with Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh and other 2,000 worshippers from around the country. The Prince also read a passage from the King James Bible for YouTube.
His Royal Highness is also Patron of a number of organisations that help maintain the vibrancy of church communities and preserve places of worship such as the Churches Conservation Trust, Music in Country Churches, Friends of Exeter Cathedral, Friends of Canterbury Cathedral, the Hereford Cathedral Perpetual Trust, Norfolk Churches Trust, Round Tower Churches Society, Salisbury Cathedral Trust and the Wells Cathedral Preservation Trust.
Given his desire to encourage an understanding of the main faiths The Prince is also the Patron of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies as well as the Jewish Museum and other faith organisations.
The Prince has long called for an acknowledgement of the strengths of other religious traditions, and for greater mutual understanding amongst the adherents of the world's different faiths. In 1994 The Prince said: "I personally would rather see it [his future role] as Defender of Faith, not the Faith".
In an interview in 2015 The Prince of Wales clarified further by saying "I said I would rather be seen as a Defender of Faith all those years ago because as I tried to describe I mind about the inclusion of other people’s faiths and their freedom to worship in this country and it’s always seems to me that while at the same time being Defender of the Faith you can also be protector of faiths."
The Prince then made reference to The Queen's Jubilee address to faith leaders at Lambeth Palace in 2012 where Her Majesty said: "The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated. Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country."
On 17th December 2013 The Prince of Wales was joined by HRH Prince Ghazi of Jordan on a visit to the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre in Stevenage and the Syrian Orthodox Church in Acton, England. HRH Prince Ghazi of Jordan is the Chief Adviser for Religious and Cultural Affairs and Personal Envoy to His Majesty The King of Jordan. Having visited ancient centres of Orthodox and Coptic Christian worship over the years (which have their origins in the Middle East) and met members of those communities in various countries, The Prince expressed concern about the current challenges facing Christians in some Middle-Eastern nations and wanted to meet members of those communities resident in the UK to find out more. Later that day The Prince of Wales and Prince Ghazi of Jordan were joined by guests representing Christians from the Middle East at a reception in Clarence House, London. Representatives from other faiths were also present. During that event The Prince made a speech about the challenges facing Christians in the Middle-East.
During his speech The Prince said "For twenty years, I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity and to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding. The point though, surely, is that we have now reached a crisis where the bridges are rapidly being deliberately destroyed by those with a vested interest in doing so and this is achieved through intimidation, false accusation and organized persecution including to Christian communities in the Middle East at the present time.
"Let us remember we are talking about Arab Christians Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian, Egyptian and Saudi Christians, as well as those from other Arab countries and from Iran not Western Christians living in the Middle East."
In early 2014 The Prince wrote an article for the Pan-Arabic newspaper, Asharq Alawsat that also highlighted the challenges facing Christians in the Middle-East.
The Prince has given many speeches on the need for greater understanding between different religions. In March 2006, His Royal Highness addressed over 800 Islamic scholars at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, and called for greater dialogue between the three Abrahamic faiths: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The Prince was awarded an honorary doctorate from the university for his work to encourage inter-faith dialogue and was the first Western man to receive this honour.
During the same overseas tour with The Duchess of Cornwall, His Royal Highness repeated his call at Saudi Arabia’s most senior Islamic University, the Imam Muhammad bin Saud University in Riyadh, the first Christian to speak there.
On 1st September 2013, The Prince of Wales attended the installation of Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth at St John’s Wood United Synagogue in London. During the event Chief Rabbi Mirvis praise The Prince for the "passion" he holds for inter-faith understanding as he became the first member of the royal family to attend the installation of the Chief Rabbi.
In June 2013 The Prince attended the tribute dinner in honour of the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks. During the dinner The Prince delivered a speech praising the Chief Rabbi for his “extraordinary contribution” to national life. The Prince also praised the Jewish community for their “incalculable” contribution to British culture.
In November 2013, during their most recent visit to India, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited the Akshardham Temple, in Delhi. During the same tour of India Their Royal Highnesses attended Remembrance Sunday service in Mumbai at The Church of St John the Evangelist to honour the fallen.
St Thomas Cathedral Syriac Orthodox Church
TRH in Oman: Day two
HRH visits St John’s Church
HRH visits the West London Synagogue
Jewish Care Dinner
An interview with BBC Radio 2's Sunday Hour
The Jain Temple
HRH visits the Syrian Orthodox Church
HRH visits the Holy Family Catholic Church
Armenian Church visit
WW1 Candlelight vigil
HRH Church visits
HRH visits Wales
Chief Rabbi Installation
Tribute to Chief Rabbi
Day 3: Armenia
Archbishop of Canterbury enthronement