Some information on the Prince of Wales’s private audience with Pope Benedict XVI that didn’t get reported:
The April 27 audience was brief — only 15 minutes — but the two surprisingly found plenty to talk about. Environmental issues figured high up on the list of topics. Prince Charles spoke about his Amazon Rainforest Project, and they even broached the possibility of collaborating on some environmental programs there.
They then went on to discuss the Holy Father’s upcoming visit to the Holy Land, and interreligious dialogue — a subject also of interest to the heir to the British throne. Prince Charles recalled a fairly recent visit he made to Egypt when he visited Al Azhar University, regarded as the pre-eminent institute of learning in the Muslim world and the closest thing Islam has to the Vatican.
Benedict and Charles then went on to speak about the liturgy. That seems to have surprised everyone as few know about Prince Charles’s interest in this area. Reportedly, they both decided there was plenty of scope to collaborate on the issue, but I learned this from just one source so it’s best not take it as gospel.
Contrary to press reports ahead of the meeting, both Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, were received by the Pope together rather than separately. This was for protocol reasons: The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh met John Paul II in 2000 together, and so did Prince Charles and Lady Diana when they met John Paul in 1995.
Some have said the audience indicated the Holy Father was loosening the Catholic Church’s views on divorce, but this is “nonsense” according to Vatican officials. Because the royal couple’s marital status is recognized by their own Anglican church, it’s not a protocol issue.
While Prince Charles talked with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s “Foreign Minister,” the Duchess was taken on a private tour of Vatican which included a visit to the Sistine chapel.
Meanwhile, I’ve been told that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was invited to speak at one of the Pontifical Academies, most probably the Academy of Social Sciences. The event was scheduled for a date in May, but it’s believed it’s not going ahead now for reasons unclear.
Blair’s wife, Cherie, spoke at the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences a few years ago, as well as more recently at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.