One coronation tradition is getting an extra special addition thanks to a personal gift from Pope Francis to King Charles III. On Wednesday, the Church of Wales announced that two shards from the collection of fragments believed to date back to the crucifixion have been incorporated into the cross that will be carried down the aisle of Westminster Abbey on May 6.
“In a significant ecumenical gesture, the Cross of Wales will incorporate a relic of the True Cross, the personal gift of Pope Francis to His Majesty The King to mark the Coronation,” the Church of Wales said in a statement. According to Reuters, the shards were shaped into a cross and mounted behind a rose crystal gemstone.
Though the coronation will be a moment for the citizens of the UK to mark their unity and optimism about a new reign, it’s also the ceremony that solidifies Charles’s role as the head of the Church of England. Though he will take an oath to be “the defender of the faith” during the ceremony, he has said previously that he hopes to promote interfaith communication as king. Throughout his years as the Prince of Wales he took an interest in promoting cooperation between Catholics and Protestants. In 2017, Charles and Queen Consort Camilla first met Pope Francis when they visited the Vatican, and Charles met him again in 2019. The couple previously met with Pope Benedict in 2009, and actually postponed their 2005 wedding so that Charles could attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II as a representative of the royal family.
The Cross of Wales consists of a hammered silver sheet, made from recycled bullion from the Royal Mint, mounted on wood from a tree that was knocked over by the wind in Wales. In 2020, Charles commissioned the Goldsmiths’ Company to make the cross to honor the centennial of the Anglican church in Wales. On a November trip to the company’s headquarters, he applied his own “King’s Mark” in the shape of a leopard’s head to the cross, which ultimately took 267 thousand hammer blows to complete. After the coronation, the cross will tour Anglican and Catholic churches in Wales.
The Most Reverend Andrew John, the Archbishop of Wales, blessed the Cross of Wales in Llandudno, and spoke to the Times about the meaning of the gift. “It’s hugely significant,” he said. “It’s a remarkable thing that the King has been able to find favor with the Vatican and as a result of that very good relationship, Pope Francis has agreed to gift these small fragments of the holy cross.”
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