ROME – On Thursday the Vatican confirmed Pope Francis has given King Charles III two shards believed to be from the True Cross as a gift for his coronation.
In a statement Thursday, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni confirmed “that the fragments of the relic of the True Cross were donated by the Holy See in early April, through the Apostolic Nunciature, to His Majesty King Charles III, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, as an ecumenical gesture on the occasion of the centenary of the Anglican Church in Wales.”
King Charles III of the United Kingdom ascended to the throne last fall, after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who had achieved the milestones of England’s longest reigning monarch and had just celebrated her Platinum Jubilee when she passed away at 94.
Charles will be formally crowned in an Anglican ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London on May 6.
The two fragments of the True Cross that Pope Francis has gifted for the event will be included in a new processional Cross of Wales to be used at the Charles’s coronation. Materials used to make the new cross include recycled silver from the Welsh state, reclaimed wood, and slate.
Made by silversmith Michael Lloyd, the cross is inscribed with some words of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales. It was a gift from Charles to the Church in Wales to mark its centenary in 2020, and it will lead the coronation procession in just over a week’s time.
The fragments of the True Cross gifted by Pope Francis have been shaped into a cross and are set behind a rose crystal gemstone.
Relics such as these have been venerated in Christendom for centuries, with pilgrims routinely making their way to churches and shrines where the relics are held.
Several relics of what is believed to be the True Cross and other artifacts believed to have been used in Jesus’s crucifixion, including fragments believed to come from the crown of thorns that Jesus wore, as well as the nails believed to have held him to the cross, are available for veneration at the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem in Rome.
After King Charles’s coronation, the processional cross containing the fragments gifted by the pope will be shared between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches in Wales.
While the coronation service will be an Anglican ceremony, such a prominent inclusion of a gift from the pope is considered a significant gesture reflecting how other denominations and faiths will be represented at the coronation.
In an April 20 Tweet, the British Ambassador to the Holy See, Chris Trott, said his country is “deeply moved and grateful to Pope Francis for this extraordinary gift.”
This gift, he said, reflects “the strength of the [Vatican] and [Great Britain’s] relationship that developed over the course of the reign of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth, who met 5 Popes!”
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