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Catholic service at Hampton Court for first time in almost 500 years

by Hannah Tooley

History will be made when Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, celebrates a service this evening at the former home of King Henry VIII.

The Mass marks the first Catholic service to be held there since the 1550's, making it first time a service has been conducted according to the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church at the palace's Chapel Royal in almost 500 years.

Bishop of London, Rt Revd Dr Richard Chartres, will deliver the sermon and the event will be a unique meeting of the Catholic and Anglican churches on such an important site.

It has been organised by both the Genesis Foundation, an arts organisation, and the Choral Foundation, which works to preserve and promote the heritage of English Choral Music at the Palace's Chapel Royal.

Before the service and the vespers are celebrated, Cardinal Nichols and the Bishop, who is also Dean of Her Majesty's Chapels Royal, are planning to hold a public discussion on Faith and the Crown.

It will cover a number of issues, including the relationship between the two churches and the monarchy.

John Studzinski, chairperson of the Genesis Foundation, said: "Dialogue between faiths is much needed and welcomed in these turbulent times.

"We need to recognise that we have more in common than not.

"I'm therefore delighted that the Genesis Foundation is enabling the Catholic and Anglican churches to engage in dialogue on this site that is so rich in history, both theological and musical. It will be an unforgettable occasion and is genuinely one for the history books."

Michele Price, the Choral Foundation's director of development, said: "The Chapel Royal at Hampton Court played centre stage to the religious changes in the 16th Century.

"Its musicians and composers met the challenge of serving the spiritual needs of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, by producing new and beautiful music and in so doing became 'the cradle of English church music.'

"This historic occasion enables us to explore our rich heritage and bring together Christian traditions as we celebrate 500 years of Hampton Court Palace."

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