(OSV News) – When King Charles III is crowned May 6 in the gothic splendor of London’s ancient Westminster Abbey, it will be one of the year’s most watched events.

The coronation has attracted controversy – not least over its $125 million price tag during a cost-of-living crisis – even as opinion polls show dwindling public interest in the monarchy. But despite controversies, it will still be an opportunity to project the soft-power of British royal pageantry and reaffirm Christianity’s place in public affairs, including the presence of Britain’s small but significant Catholic minority.

King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort, attend a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London on April 27, 2023. (OSV News photo/Yui Mok, Reuters)

“Being anti-Catholic has been an element of British identity for centuries,” Father Timothy Radcliffe, former master of the Dominicans and one of Britain’s best-known Catholic preachers, told OSV News. “I’d hope an event like this will help our church become yet more integrated into national life at a time when, like most countries, we face threats of disintegration, increasing inequality and a declining sense of the common good.”

King Charles inherits the duties and prerogatives of head of state in an unbroken line of monarchs dating back to the 10th century. He also assumes the role of supreme governor of the Church of England, along with the traditional title of “fidei defensor,” or “defender of the faith,” bestowed in 1521 by Pope Leo X on King Henry VIII.

And while he’s long declared his wish, in a modern multicultural society, to be defender of all faiths, not just one, King Charles III reaffirmed his Protestant identity in speeches after the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022 — and will reaffirm it again during the coronation service.

This has caused some disappointment, not least among Britain’s Catholics.

The Catholic Church will be represented at the abbey by Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, who will share a blessing with Protestant and Orthodox leaders. Catholic bishops from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland also will join the congregation, along with the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the newly appointed apostolic nuncio to Great Britain, Spanish Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendía.

But Catholic prelates were not included among 50 public figures assigned formal roles in the order of service, published April 28. This will include a Bible reading by Britain Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a practicing Hindu, and the presentation of regalia by Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and Hindu leaders.

Susan Doran, an Oxford University monarchy historian, said she regretted the bulk of the ceremony will be exclusively Protestant, with Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and other Anglican prelates playing a dominant role.

“With its plummeting membership and many problems, it’s not surprising the Church of England seeks to hold on to its link with the monarchy, and sees the coronation as an opportunity to proclaim this,” Doran told OSV News.

“But at a time when the monarchy seems to be losing meaning for many people, I think it will fuel further alienation if they go too far down a narrow Protestant route — particularly among the young and people of other faiths,” she added.

That could be the reaction of some Catholics, too, especially those conscious of how bitter past conflicts have defined modern Britain’s religious outlook.

Relations with Rome, dating from the first mission to Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the sixth century, were broken off under Henry VIII in 1536 during the Reformation conflicts. After a brief restoration under Henry’s Catholic daughter, Mary I, hostility reared again under the Protestant Elizabeth I, who was declared excommunicated and deposed as a “servant of wickedness” in 1570 by Pope Pius V.

Persecution of Catholics intensified under Elizabeth’s successor, James I, particularly after the infamous 1605 Gunpowder Plot to blow up the king and his parliament. Some historians now dispute whether such a plot really existed. But it sealed the fate of English Catholics for the next 250 years as perceived heretics and traitors.

Even in the late 19th century, the Catholic Church was treated as an alien element in national life, deprived of equal rights. Although a church hierarchy was reestablished in 1850, it took until 1871 for Catholic academics even to be admitted to Oxford and Cambridge universities, and until St. John Paul II’s historic 1982 visit for formal diplomatic ties to be established.

Since then, the Catholic Church’s profile has been rebuilt, bringing it closer to full acceptance as a British institution.

Recent statistics show that Catholics make up around 13% of the United Kingdom’s 67 million inhabitants, with Anglicans at 14%, although religious affiliations have declined sharply across the country, with only around half of citizens declaring themselves Christian in recent surveys, compared to more than 70% two decades ago.

Although King Charles’s consort, Queen Camilla, was baptized a Protestant, she was married by a Catholic priest in 1973 to her Catholic first husband, Andrew Parker-Bowles, and brought up her son and daughter as Catholics.

Technical formalities aside, Charles has shown personal openness to Catholics, postponing his own wedding to Camilla in 2005 to attend St. John Paul’s funeral.

Before his fourth Vatican visit in October 2019 for the canonization of St. John Henry Newman, Charles published an article in L’Osservatore Romano and The Times of London hailing the event as a celebration “not merely for Catholics, but for all who cherish the values by which he was inspired.”

Heading a 12-member Catholic delegation to pledge allegiance to the new king March 9, Cardinal Nichols duly paid tribute to Charles’s “commitment to religious faith” and assured him of Catholic support.

On April 19, the pope himself reciprocated, donating two splinters from the Cross of Christ, preserved among relics in the Vatican Museums, for incorporation into a new Cross of Wales, which will lead the king’s coronation procession.

The king will be crowned as he sits on a 700-year-old chair with the solid-gold St. Edward’s Crown, made for Charles II in 1661. He will be presented with the orb and scepter pictured last autumn sitting atop the late queen’s coffin.

Holy oil for anointing the monarch and Camilla was consecrated March 4 at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem.

Cardinal Nichols and other British Catholic bishops urged Catholics to take a full part in coronation events, including special weekend Masses and a May 3-5 triduum of prayer, as well as a nationwide day of volunteering and charity work set for May 8.

“The world has immeasurably changed since 1953 (coronation of Queen Elizabeth II), with many more opportunities and challenges,” Cardinal Nichols acknowledged in a prayer card circulated to all parishes in April. The prayer asks God to help Charles III “constantly secure and preserve for the people entrusted to his care the freedom that comes from civil peace.”

Father Radcliffe, the Dominican preacher, hinted at his own disappointment, all the same, that the Catholic Church won’t be assigned a fuller part, given the “godly role” it’s always tried to play in society.

“Catholic social teaching could be a precious gift for a nation needing to renew its social bonds and rediscover a common life and purpose,” Father Radcliffe told OSV News.

Cardinal Nichols’ spokesman, Alexander DesForges, was more sanguine. Although Catholic clergy aren’t playing a significant role in the coronation, they’ll at least be present – for the first time since Henry VIII and his Reformation.

“We have to be realistic. The king has a formal role in the Anglican Church of England, and this service is taking place in Westminster Abbey,” DesForges told OSV News. “The fact that six bishops will be present, including the Vatican’s Cardinal Parolin, whereas there was no Catholic representation at all 70 years ago, clearly shows things have changed.”

BUDAPEST, Hungary (CNS) – Praising the piety and charity of Hungarian Christians and their commitment to supporting traditional family life, Pope Francis said Christ also calls them to open their hearts — and perhaps their borders — to others in need.

When it comes to the church or to society, isolationism is not Christian, the pope said in a variety of ways during his visit to Budapest, Hungary, April 28-30.

Pope Francis accepts the offertory gifts from Hungarians dressed in traditional clothes during Mass in Budapest’s Kossuth Lajos Square April 30, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Because of the 86-year-old pope’s mobility issues, the trip was confined to the capital and the official schedule was lighter than usual. But, as is normal for the pope, he used part of his long midday breaks and early evenings for private meetings, including with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Budapest and Hungary.

Flying back to Rome April 30, the pope confirmed that he and Metropolitan Hilarion had spoken about Russia’s war on Ukraine, and he said the Vatican has some special “mission” underway, but he declined to provide details.

The pope also spoke about the war with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who, despite being a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has condemned the war. But within the European Union, he has consistently voted against sanctioning Russia and against sending weapons to Ukraine.

Orbán has claimed his position makes him the only European leader siding with Pope Francis, although the pope has insisted Ukraine has a right to defend itself.

In his first speech in Hungary – to government and civic leaders and diplomats serving in Budapest – the pope encouraged the leaders to foster greater European unity rather than going their own way.

The “passionate quest of a politics of community and the strengthening of multilateral relations seems a wistful memory from a distant past,” he said April 28 in his speech at the former Carmelite monastery that now houses Orbán’s office.

“More and more,” the pope said, “enthusiasm for building a peaceful and stable community of nations seems to be cooling, as zones of influence are marked out, differences accentuated, nationalism is on the rise and ever harsher judgments and language are used in confronting others.”

Ukraine is one of Hungary’s eastern neighbors and Hungarians have assisted some 2.5 million Ukrainians who have crossed the border since Russia’s war on Ukraine began in February 2022. About 35,000 of the Ukrainian refugees have remained in Hungary.

Pope Francis repeatedly praised Hungarians for opening their country and their hearts to the Ukrainians, but in several speeches and at his Mass April 30 in Budapest’s Kossuth Lajos Square, he urged them to be open to everyone in need.

“How sad and painful it is to see closed doors,” he said in his homily. He cited “the closed doors of our selfishness with regard to others; the closed doors of our individualism amid a society of growing isolation; the closed doors of our indifference toward the underprivileged and those who suffer; the doors we close toward those who are foreign or unlike us, toward migrants or the poor.”

Orbán and President Katalin Novák, who have promoted the migration restrictions, were among the estimated 50,000 people attending the Mass in the square in front of the Hungarian Parliament building.

The pope also preached openness April 28 during a meeting with Hungary’s bishops, priests, religious, seminarians and catechists.

He called Hungarian Catholics to embrace “prophetic welcome” or “prophetic receptivity,” which, he said, “is about learning how to recognize the signs of God in the world around us, including places and situations that, while not explicitly Christian, challenge us and call for a response.”

Christians grow in “prophetic receptivity,” he said, by “bringing the Lord’s consolation to situations of pain and poverty in our world, being close to persecuted Christians, to migrants seeking hospitality, to people of other ethnic groups and to anyone in need.”

Pope Francis met with more than 10,000 Hungarian young people in a sports arena April 29 and listened to four of them share how they have overcome obstacles and grown in their faith.

One of them, Tódor Levcsenkó, a 17-year-old student in Miskolc, Hungary, and the son of an Eastern Catholic priest from the Eparchy of Mukachevo in Western Ukraine, told his peers that their sense of mission and purpose can be “numbed by the fact that we live in safety and peace,” but only a few miles away, across the border, “war and suffering are the order of the day.”

“May we have the courage to defend our faith and take up our call to be peacemakers,” he said.

Pope Francis echoed his call, telling the young people, “This is the real challenge: to take control of our lives in order to help our world live in peace. Each one of us should ask the uncomfortable question: What am I doing for others, for the church, for society? Do I think only about myself?”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The Biden administration announced April 27 new steps it would take in an effort to reduce migrant arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border when Title 42 expires in May.

In remarks at the State Department, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said the administration would set up migrant processing centers in Latin America to screen those seeking entry as to whether they have a legal pathway.

The administration also will expand legal pathways for entry, while increasing deportations of those who enter the United States unlawfully.

Blinken said the centers would “improve qualified individuals’ access” to refugee resettlement, family reunification and lawful settlement in the U.S. or other countries.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, pictured with President Joe Biden in a March 1, 2021, file photo. Blinken and Mayorkas made issued a statement April 27, 2023, on steps the Biden administration will take in an effort to reduce migrant arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border when Title 42 expires May 11. (OSV News photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

“These centers will take a hugely important step to prevent people from making the dangerous journey to the border by providing a much safer, legal option to migrate that they can pursue in and from their own countries,” Blinken said.

Mayorkas said that “when people have safe and orderly pathways to come to the United States, and face consequences for failing to do so, they use those pathways.”

Title 42 is a part of federal U.S. public health law granting the federal government some authority to implement emergency action to prevent the spread of contagious diseases by barring some individuals from entry.

Then-President Donald Trump implemented the policy in 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the move was seen as part of his administration’s broader attempts to reduce migration. The use of Title 42 to expel migrants at the southern border was criticized by some public health experts, who argued it was politically motivated rather than evidence-based.

Since then, Title 42 has been invoked more than 2.7 million times to expel migrants, including those seeking asylum, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. Title 42 is set to end May 11.

In a statement issued late April 28, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, said the bishops “strongly support increased refugee resettlement from Latin America and the Caribbean as a reliable pathway to lasting safety for those who have been forcibly displaced.”

He said the bishops “look forward to its close coordination with civil society and Congress to ensure the successful integration of these newcomers.” Bishop Seitz added that resources used for this “should not undermine existing access to resettlement for other refugees or impede the proper functioning of immigration processes generally.”

The bishops “are relieved that the Administration does not plan to detain vulnerable families, given the unjustifiable and immoral harms of doing so,” Bishop Seitz continued, but they also “are greatly concerned that such families, including those with young children, and others will be subjected to rushed proceedings without meaningful due process.”

The administration’s continued “reliance on expedited removal” coupled with “severe restrictions on asylum eligibility and access” is concerning, Bishop Seitz said, adding that those “most desperately in need of relief” will “bear the brunt of these measures.”

He acknowledged the “challenge of forced migration facing our country and hemisphere” is “complex” and said that achieving “the conditions necessary to sustainably reduce irregular migration” will only happen by overhauling the U.S. immigration system and making a long-term commitment to address root causes of migration and promote “integral human development throughout the Americas.”

J. Kevin Appleby, interim executive director of the Center for Migration Studies, told OSV News April 27 that the Biden administration’s announcement seems “a positive step forward.”

“Of course, as always, it depends on how something is implemented and what resources are devoted to the implementation that will decide whether it’s successful or not,” Appleby said.

“But it gives asylum- seekers an opportunity to tell their stories and have their cases adjudicated without taking a dangerous journey north.”

Appleby, a former adviser on migration policy for the U.S. bishops, said that for the last quarter century, “Congress has not had the political courage to reform the immigration system.”

“So it’s left to the executive branch to come up with these responses, when Congress should be working with the administration to pass legislation to overhaul our immigration laws,” he said.

Republicans have made immigration a key part of their criticism of the Biden administration, accusing him of lax policies. In a statement reacting to Biden’s 2024 reelection bid, former President Donald Trump, in the midst of his third bid for the White House after Biden defeated him in 2020, said, “Under Biden, the Southern Border has been abolished — and millions of illegal aliens have been released into our communities.”

A fact sheet from the State Department about the new actions said, “The lifting of the Title 42 order does not mean the border is open.”

The fact sheet said that any individuals who unlawfully cross the U.S. southern border after Title 42 is lifted will be processed for expedited removal, barred from reentry for at least five years if they are ordered removed and would be ineligible for asylum “absent an applicable exception.”

“To avoid these consequences, individuals are encouraged to use the many lawful pathways the United States has expanded over the past two years,” the fact sheet said.

The U.S. bishops and other Catholic immigration advocates have criticized Title 42 as well as the Biden administration’s continued use of the Trump-era policy.