Archbishop of Canterbury denies tension with King over Church's role in Coronation

The Archbishop of Canterbury joined other faith leaders to help promote the coronation Big Help Out, as Chris Ship reports

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the coronation service next month is a "monumental" moment for the country, denying any tensions between him and the King over the role of the Church of England in the historic ceremony.

Justin Welby was taking part in his own volunteering session with other faith leaders, where they encouraged people to give their time to others on the Monday of the coronation bank holiday weekend.

The Big Help Out will be the focus of the coronation events on May 8, following the main service and procession, on Saturday May 6, and the community lunches and concert in Windsor, on Sunday May 7.

Mr Welby said the coronation would celebrate the "extraordinary history of Monarchy that goes back to 973 at Bath Abbey".

But he dismissed reports of any disagreements with Buckingham Palace about the sacred Christian service and the King's desire to be as inclusive a Monarch as possible for all Britons of all religions.

"None whatsoever. No tension. Absolutely not," he replied, when he was asked about recent articles suggesting potential tensions.

The service will be "deeply Christian", he said, but when the details are released, it will demonstrate how it will be "representative of the people of this land."

Mr Welby will preside over the ceremony at Westminster Abbey on Saturday May 6 - where Coronations have been held since 1066.

On Wednesday, he was joined by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, as well as representatives from Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist faiths, as they sorted clothing donations and helped to prepare and serve lunch for the homeless, who come to the centre, run by The Passage charity.

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Mr Welby said: "We are infinitely more diverse than we were in 1953. This is not 1953."

"Part of the role of the Church of England is to be a canopy for all faiths, not to be a multi-faith institution but to be an institution that stands up for faiths across this country."

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Mr Welby has led the nation at the State Funeral of the late Queen and the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle.

Now, he will lead the first coronation service in 70 years.

"This is monumental. Huge. Enormous. As was the funeral of the late Queen which in the end was seen by four billion people," he added.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis (left) and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby help sort clothing in the Big Help Out. Credit: PA

Was he nervous?

"You are keyed up more than nervous," he replied.

"The whole theme is service and within that it's party time, it's joy, it's celebration and out of that it is service."

His sentiment was echoed by Mr Mirvis, who pointed to Mitzvah Day in the Jewish faith - which encourages people to give up their time for others.

He said the prime message of Mitzvah Day is that "every single day of the year we should be doing a Mitzvah" to help others.

As for the King's desire to represent all faiths, the Chief Rabbi said: "It is correct that his coronation should be a Christian ceremony within a church… but the King goes out of his way at all times to guarantee that the members of all faiths are very much on his mind and he wants us all to feel equally at home with this wonderful country of ours."

Volunteers at The Passage who helped to make today's lunch said they needed more people to come forward.

The Archbishop said the coronation Big Help Out is a chance for people to "benefit and bless the country a bit by helping out", calling it "an expression of joy and love".