BY CHRISTINA WHITE
lIII N'S unprecedented invitation to Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor to stay at Sandringham and preach to the Royal family has been warmly received by Catholic commentators who say it will help towards dispelling the antagonism that has separated the Church of England and the
Catholic church for 500 years.
Last week Buckingham Palace confirmed that the Queen had invited the Cardinal to stay at her Norfolk estate on the weekend of January 12-13 and to preach at the Sunday morning service. Other members of the Royal family, including the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen Mother, are expected to -attend.
It will be the second time the Cardinal has stayed with the Royal household — in April this year he was invited to Windsor — but it is the first time a Catholic cardinal has preached in one of the Queen's churches. It is expected that he will preach at Mattins — the morning service — at a church on the Sandringham estate.
A spokesman for the Cardinal said he was "greatly
honoured" by the invitation which was made some weeks ago. The details came to light with the publication of the Queen's official engagements for January. Unofficially, the Catholic hierarchy is said to be pleased at the "warming" of relations described by a spokesman as -showing the Queen's openness and desire to promote ecumenical relationships".
Over the last two decades the Queen has helped to foster better ecumenical relations between the two churches.
In 1995 she attended vespers at Westminster Cathedral at the invitation of Cardinal Basil Hume whom she fondly called "my cardinal".
She was a known admirer of the late Cardinal Basil Hume and honoured him with the Order of Merit two weeks before his death from cancer in 1999. The invitation , coming at the start of the Queen's Jubilee Year, is a significant, symbolic gesture. Last month the Cardinal emphasised the close links between Christians when he called for Catholics to mark the Queen's Jubilee with special Masses at which the national anthem should be sung.