Britain's heir to the throne, Prince Charles, plans to relinquish the monarch's 450-year-old role as head of the Church of England when he becomes king, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The Sunday Times cited a television interview, due for broadcast on the Independent Television network later this week, in which the prince spoke of his wish to represent all faiths in a multicultural Britain.If Charles fulfilled his wish, it would end a tradition dating back to Henry VIII, who declared himself "defender of the faith" after severing relations with the Vatican in the 16th century.
"I happen to believe that the Catholic subjects of the sovereign are as important (as the Protestants)," the newspaper quoted him as saying, "not to mention the Islamic, Hindu and Zoroastrian."
The news came as Charles prepared to mark the 25th anniversary of his investiture as Prince of Wales.
The Sunday Times said the prince thought it was "divisive for the monarch to be seen as head of such an institution when large numbers of British people practice other religions."
In recent years Charles has surprised and upset many commentators by being outspoken about diverse issues.
Lord Coggan, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, and a leading Anglican, said he thought Charles had put his hand into a "hornet's nest of problems."
But leaders of other faiths told The Sunday Times they welcomed the prince's cosmopolitan plans.
"It shows the vision of a man who recognizes there are only two religions: belief and non-belief," said Hersham El-Essawy, chairman of the Islamic Society for Religious Tolerance. "The Church of England is strong enough to survive on its own."
Rabbi Jonathan Romain, a spokesman for the Reform synagogues of Great Britain, told the paper Prince Charles was "recognizing a change of climate."