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5 religious facts about Prince Philip

(RNS) – Prince Philip, who died on Friday April 9 at the age of 99, had been married for 73 years to the leader of the Church of England, and it is not surprising that he identified himself during the most of his life as an Anglican. But his religious profile was a bit more complicated. Here are five religious facts you need to know about Britain’s oldest wife.

He was baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church

Before Philip and Elizabeth married in 1947, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, quietly suggesting that Philip be officially received into the Church of England. Although related to Queen Victoria, Philip was descended from the royal house of Greece, where he was born, baptized and lived for the first 18 months of his life.

At the time of his engagement to Elizabeth, Philip considered himself an Anglican and had attended Church of England services during his tenure as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy during World War II. However, he was still formally Greek Orthodox.

“In the Church of England we are always ready to serve members of the Orthodox Church and to admit to the sacrament,” Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher wrote at the time. “At the same time, unless formally received into the Church of England, he remains a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, which, though on the closest and friendliest terms with us, n unable to enter into full communion with us. ”


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Decades later, British journalist Giles Milton wrote in The Spectator in 1992 that Philip, then 70, had rekindled his interest in Orthodox Christianity and held meetings with several Orthodox prelates, including the Russian Orthodox Bishop of Grande -Britain and Ireland, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom (also known as Antoine de Sourozh).

After the death of Philip’s father, his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, became a nun, and in official family appearances she can be seen in her habit. A private chapel set up at Buckingham Palace for her “was hastily dismantled after her death in 1969,” Milton wrote. Her remains were interred in a Russian Orthodox convent in Jerusalem, as she had wished.

Buried next to Princess Alice is her aunt, a Russian Orthodox saint.

A Russian priest stands near the grave of Princess Alice of Battenberg and Greece, great-grandmother of Prince William, at the Church of Mary Magdalene, in East Jerusalem, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. (AP Photo /Mahmoud Illean)

Born into a noble family in Germany in 1864, Philip’s mother’s aunt Elisabeth married Tsar Alexander II’s son, Sergei Alexandrovich, and converted to Russian Orthodoxy from her childhood Lutheran faith. After Sergei was assassinated by a socialist agitator in 1905, Elisabeth publicly forgave him, asked for a pardon, and visited him in prison to convert him to Christianity.

In 1909 Elisabeth sold her jewelry and with the proceeds founded a convent and made herself an abbess, but in the year after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 Vladimir Lenin ordered Elisabeth’s arrest, and with several other relatives of the Tsar, she was thrown into an iron mine. According to contemporary accounts, Elisabeth and her fellow victims spent their last moments singing hymns.

She was canonized by the semi-autonomous Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia in 1981 and by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1992.

His ‘late religious revival’ resulted in a center for religious studies at Windsor Castle

One of the most Philip-centric episodes of the Netflix series “The Crown” concerns Philip’s alleged midlife crisis, which he resolves by sitting in a therapy group for Church ministers in England exhausted and participating in the creation of a spiritual reflection. reservoir at the Royal Family’s Windsor Castle estate.

The episode, though widely dismissed as fiction by well-informed royal observers, has a basis in fact: Philip was involved in the creation of St. George’s House, although the conference center was reportedly primarily the idea of the Reverend Robert Woods, whom the Royal Family had invited to become Dean of Windsor Chapel in 1962, and whom Philip considered a friend.

A royal source said the centre, which brought together prominent Britons from industry, science and other sectors to discuss religious and social issues, was instrumental in what he calls ‘the Late Religious Awakening” by Philip. In an excerpt from an historical companion to ‘The Crown’, Robert Lacey wrote: ‘St George’s House clearly provided the much needed dimension to Philip in his spiritual life.

His environmental work was a faith-based effort

Sometimes described as Philip’s “religious advisor” and his “guru”, Martin Palmer is officially the general secretary of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, a non-profit organization founded by Philip in 1995. The two are met a decade earlier, when they were both working with the World Wildlife Fund, and Philip asked Palmer to organize a meeting in Italy of representatives of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.

Philip’s partnership with Palmer prompted some of the Prince Consort’s most controversial statements about faith. In 1990, he argued that the “ecological pragmatism of so-called pagan religions” was “much more realistic, in terms of conservation ethics, than the more intellectual monotheistic philosophies of revealed religions.”

And although Philip is known for his more than awkward comments about race, Palmer describes the ARC as a way for Philip to become familiar with beliefs around the world, telling the BBC in 2017 that the prince consort has “a great affection for the Taoists”. .”

He is worshiped by a small sect in the Pacific Islands as a god

In this photo from Sunday, May 31, 2015, Albi Nagia poses with photographs of Prince Philip in Yakel, Tanna Island, Vanuatu.  Nagia is part of a movement that worships the prince as the son of their ancestral God.  (AP Photo/Nick Perry)

In this photo from Sunday, May 31, 2015, Albi Nagia poses with photographs of Prince Philip in Yakel, Tanna Island, Vanuatu. Nagia is part of a movement that worships the prince as the son of their ancestral God. (AP Photo/Nick Perry)

In a small village in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, locals have long revered Prince Philip as a divine being, based on a prophecy that the traveling son of a mountain spirit would one day return to the island. with his powerful wife.


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One of many “cargo cults” in Micronesia and elsewhere in the Pacific that honor off-island visitors as deities, islanders’ beliefs in Philip’s divinity apparently grew during the first decade after that he became a consort, based on the British colonial authorities’ respect for the former Royal Navy officer. Their beliefs were reinforced when Queen Elizabeth and Philip arrived in Vanuatu in 1974.

A supporter of Jewish causes, he was the first member of the British royal family to visit Israel

Until 2018, the British royal family was banned from visiting Israel, due to the UK’s long history of Zionist violence against British governance that led to the Jewish state’s declaration of independence in 1948 But in 1994, Philip broke the ban, traveling as a private citizen to attend a ceremony honoring his mother as “righteous among the nations” by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, for her efforts on behalf of Jews in Greece during World War II.

With his death, Israeli leaders remembered Philip as someone who took risks on their behalf for decades, citing his support for the Jewish National Fund and willingness to speak to pro-Israel groups as early as the 1960s. despite the criticism.