Lots of you will have been upset to learn that the official CBCEW response to planning work for the interment of the remains of Richard III simply said that Bishop Malcolm would play whatever ecumenical part those organising the ceremonies thought fit, rather than insisting on a Catholic burial for a Catholic King. What none of us seems to have seen is the letter from Archbishop Nichols to the Prime Minister.
"Dear Prime Minister
When we last spoke, after the passing of the Same Sex Marriage Act, I said to you that I would write about an opportunity for the Catholics in this country to demonstrate their continuing allegiance to the Crown and the State and for you to recognise it without giving up the principles to which you want to demonstrate your adherence. I think the interment of Richard III might be that opportunity.
Richard was the last but one monarch in full and open communion with Rome and his funeral should not have been the hasty affair it was. Even the King who vanquished him, Henry VII, paid for a fine memorial to one who, whatever side one takes in the great English Civil War of the fifteenth century, was consecrated as King. As such he deserves the Catholic funeral for a King which the circumstances of 1485 denied him.
England is no longer a Catholic country and the Church of England, to whom responsibility for the King's interment has been given, will pay him the respects due to somebody being buried in the twenty-first century. It will be an ecumenical ceremony which will strive to emphasise national unity against national strife, and the local Catholic Bishop will play a full ecumenical part.
But I am sure you will agree that it would be imaginative if on the vigil of the national ceremony being planned for his interment, Richard III's remains could be prepared for their final burial in the way that he and his contemporaries would have expected, in a lavish rite focusing on him as an individual rather than as a symbol of national unity.
The traditional Catholic rite for the funeral of a King has not taken place in this country since the death of Henry VII, or indeed anywhere since the funeral of the Emperor Franz Joseph in 1916. If you will authorise the transfer of the casket containing the King's remains the day before the interment, we will give him the funeral he merited, demonstrating our loyalty, but also recognising that we are no longer part of the national establishment which you represent.
I would celebrate the ceremony in Latin, in the rite the King would have known, the rite which Cranmer adapted into the Book of Common Prayer; the other four Metropolitan Archbishops: Southwark, Cardiff, Birmingham, Liverpool; would perform with me the Absolutions proper to an anointed King; the Bishops of England and Wales and the Abbots and Priors of the religious houses would attend in Choir. And I am sure that great numbers of the Catholic faithful would attend.
We understand that the Church of England would feel that for this to take place in Leicester (or even in Westminster Abbey) would look like an attempt by Catholics at taking over, so I would propose that the ceremony should take place in Westminster Cathedral: appropriate geographically for a monarch, but not threatening for the secular and C of E establishment.
As a conservative, I am sure you will appreciate this opportunity to link our people back to their past. As an Anglican, I am sure you will appreciate our wish not to usurp what belongs to the State and its Church. As a politician, you will be glad of an opportunity to show that we can still work together.
Please be assured of my prayers for you, your family, and your ministry.
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